Stephen Cassidy

Stephen Cassidy is the current Mayor of San Leandro. He was elected in 2010 and is expected to run for re-election in 2014. He is a partner at a large class-action law firm, but specializes in public relations.

Cassidy has, overall, been an absent an ineffective mayor. His major focus was on bringing pension reform to San Leandro. He campaigned on a platform of forcing city employees to pay their own share of pension contributions, and thus saving the City $3M a year. While he managed to get the employees to agree to pay their share, they did so in exchange for raises of an equal amount, leaving the City with higher payroll tax obligations but no actual savings.

Cassidy has also been frequently criticized on this blog for his attempts to do away with transparency of City operations. He did away with minutes from City Council meetings, so that now the only way of knowing what was said at a meeting is to listen to the audio recording. The recordings are of such bad quality that they don’t work with transcription software. Cassidy has also consistently violated the Brown Act and, under his administration, the City has started to also violate the California Public Records Act.

Cassidy’s administration has been plagued by examples of Police corruption and abuse, including the conviction of an SLPD narcotics officer for selling drugs to an informant, the persecution of men thought to be seeking homosexual encounters near a public park, the killing of an unarmed mentally-ill man and the growth in surveillance of citizens. Cassidy has a been a big supporter of the Chief of Police and advocated that she be given a large race and multi-year contract.

Cassidy is also criticized for his lack of leadership, his inability to forge friendly relations with City, community and political leaders, and the lack of time and concern he spends on the City.

On the plus side, Cassidy is significantly more intelligent and somewhat less petty than former Mayor Tony Santos, whom he defeated in 2010.

Nov 132015
photo stolen from the Pioneer

photo stolen from the Pioneer

This letter is written by former Mayor Stephen Cassidy. If you have children at SLUSD schools or are a student there, I urge you to read it.

Summary – The school board is considering implementing major changes to the program for students at our middle schools and high schools starting next school year.

While this undertaking is well intentioned and likely will result in positive reforms for our students, the school board has not sufficiently brought parents into the planning process and the changes are too significant for the district to implement well by August 2016.  Parents need to know the exact changes under consideration and how they will affect their children’s education.
The school board should make clear to the community as it reviews the proposals that – if adopted – they will not be implemented until the 2017-18 school year.
Dear Friends & Neighbors:
On Monday, November 9th, I attended a meeting the school district held for parents and community members on major changes under consideration for middle school and high school as part of what is called the Secondary Redesign.
Under the initiative of the Superintendent and with the approval of the school board, a group of teachers, principals and administrators – the redesign committee – have been meeting since last school year to consider how to best meet the needs of our middle and high school students given the changes in society and education over the past decade.  You can read about the work of the committee at
It’s my understanding that the redesign committee is considering changes to the class schedule – such as eliminating the traditional periods schedule and adopting a block or modified block schedule, ways to incorporate career pathway instruction into regular academic courses, how effective the academies at the high school are in serving students and ways they can be improved, alternative education pathways for high school students beyond what the district currently offers, and ending the focus of the Fred Korematsu campus on 9th Grade students and converting into a site for academies.
The Superintendent and school board established that redesign committee would make its recommendations for changes at the middle and high schools in time for implementation by the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.  Given the large lead time needed to implement such potentially far reaching changes, if the school board decides to adopt the proposals, the school board needs to act in January 2016.  And that is what current secondary redesign timeline calls for – school board review of the proposals in January 2016.
The meeting on Monday night was the first chance for parents to learn about the work of the redesign committee. The meeting room at the San Leandro High School library was packed with parents along with many students.  This link from the San Leandro Education Foundation​ website provides a summary of the discussion.
In a nutshell, parents were told what has occurred to date and why the committee was formed.  The emphasis was on process.  No summary of recommendations by the committee – which is still meeting and considering proposals – was provided.
However, there was great concern expressed by many parents and students concerning a possible move back to a block schedule for the high school.  District administrators stayed until after 9 p.m. to answer every question.
We were told that the school board planned to have a work session on the redesign committee proposals in December and would formally consider the proposals for adoption at its January regular board meeting.  Aside from an online survey that will be made available next week for parents to complete, the meeting on Monday night was the sole opportunity for parents to ask questions on the secondary redesign changes that district planned to hold.
I commented at the meeting that hosting only one community forum (that didn’t review any actual proposals) was insufficient.  I asked that another forum for parents be scheduled in January before the school board votes on any proposals. District administrators were responsive and agreed to do so.
In considering the matter further after the meeting, I decided to attend and speak at the school board meeting on Tuesday night.  During public comments I requested that the board postpone any significant changes to our middle and high schools until the 2017-18 school year.  I emphasized that I am not opposed to thoroughly examining all aspects of our secondary programs and working to improve them.
Far reaching changes, however, require extensive engagement with internal and external (parent) stakeholders.  The current schedule proposed by the school board – even if modified to add a community meeting in early January – remains deficient in providing for meaningful input from parents on the changes under consideration.
Without going into too much detail, I am further concerned that the significant changes if adopted will require extensive teacher training and professional development.  This can only occur during the school year.  And this is simply not going to occur between January and June of 2016. The reform under consideration is too significant for staff to undertake and roll out – well – on the first day of school next August.
My children attend San Leandro public schools.  Our schools are moving in the right direction under the current district leadership.  However, the secondary redesign timeline is too rushed.  It appears that the majority of the school board does not realize they made a mistake in approving this timeline.  Nor is the school board working to modify it.
The core role of the school board is to serve as the interface between the community and district.  The board’s number one job is to ensure that the policies and initiatives of the district are in the best interests of our students and that parents and the community have the opportunity for meaningful comment and review before any significant changes occur.
Here is a link to the email addresses of all board members:  Please write them and share your views.
One final note, I serve as board member of the San Leandro Education Foundation.  I am not speaking on behalf of the foundation.  I am speaking solely for myself.
All the best,
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

Oct 302014

NotesThe San Leandro City Council eliminated full minutes of Council meetings several years ago.  To make up for this, and keep San Leandrans informed of what the Council is up to, Mike Katz-Lacabe tweets from the meetings. I’ve started compiling his tweets on this blog.  You can follow Mike’s tweets at @slbytes

These are the meetings from the 10/20/14 meeting. The Council voted on whether to accept the COPS grant. This provides $500K to fund four school resource officers, but requires the San Leandro School district to pay $1.7 million in matching funds. The following day, the School Board tabled the vote on whether to accept the grant until November 18th. Mike Katz-Lacabe spoke both at the City Council and School Board meeting against accepting the grant.  

According to presentation at San Leandro City Council, San Leandro Hospital had positive revenue in June and July 2014.

Cleophus Quealy joins the San Leandro brewery cluster (soft opening Nov. 1)

Proposed updates to San Leandro’s Casa Peralta: $75k for interior and $225k for exterior – inc. broken tile repair at front wall/fountain
The proposal for the kitchen was along the lines of authentic for the era – not a modern restaurant-grade kitchen

San Leandro History Walk videos now available at Videos done by Arroyo High student Jordan Schultz.


San Leandro’s Homeless Task Force has met 4 times so far. Liz Varela (Bldg Futures) & Rose Johnson (Davis Street) are co-chairs.

San Leandro Homeless Task Force recommends $62k to homeless services from $150k allocated to Building Futures, which got state funding.

Liz Varela of Building Futures estimates that there are 50 chronically homeless people in San Leandro.

COPS Grant

Item 10B on COPS grant for 4 additional school resource officers has been moved up the schedule for the San Leandro City Council meeting.

San Leandro’s COPS grant calls for experienced officer for the positions – this means non-entry-level officers.

Current school resource officers assigned to San Leandro Unified are Cathy Pickard and Tom Rogers.

The proposal is for four total officers – not six. As for why four? Haven’t heard the reasoning about th