No offense, but why would anybody want to live in Castro Valley? There is no there in Castro Valley where residents feel more comfortable siphoning support from the county rather than taking the initiative to create their own unique community, but a few San Leandro leaders think otherwise. The San Leandro Times, in a gallant display of tabloid journalism, reported both San Leandro City Manager Stephen Hollister and the newly-minted Police Chief Ian Willis live in Castro Valley rather than the vaunted land of cherries.
The front-page article was real pie-in-the-face stuff that elicited a chuckle. Castro Valley is only a few miles away and Hollister fairly told the Times he could do the job from there. Willis' response was typical of law enforcement, straight forward with a slight hint of so what? There's no law that says department heads must live in the city they serve. It's just a good idea if they do. End of story, right? Wrong.
Here's what the otherwise fine article from The Times failed to report: Hollister just moved to Castro Valley in June with a bit of consternation from the city council, according to sources. According to Hollister, some were adamant and some were ambivalent. Sources say Councilman Bill Stephens was one member who advised Hollister against moving out of the city.
Hollister told The Citizen he moved Castro Valley because, at the time, he was unable to find a home in San Leandro that suited his families needs. You might remember, a dust-up a few months ago over the expanding number of city employees earning six-figures. According to city records, Hollister pulls down exactly $200,000, which makes it difficult to believe Hollister's housing choices were severely limited in this buyer's market.
Voters will not look kindly towards making a sacrifice when their leaders have no skin in the game.
But, here's where it gets politically shaky for Hollister in a city that continually offers raising taxes as a remedy to budget probems; how will he justify any future parcel tax initiatives when he, himself, will not pay his share of the burden? Hollister says, because he was a renter, he would not have paid a parcel tax anyway, but that is not the point. At a time when the city needs all possible remedies to its economic woes, the elusive parcel tax is now as dead as the skunk splayed out on Williams Street. Voters will not look kindly towards making a sacrifice when their leaders have no skin in the game.
It is inexcusable for a singular option to be torpedoed because of personal choices. The Times article made a sly stab at the fact a non-resident hired another non-resident to be the police chief. Harsh stuff, but true. Hollister is not going to overrun the city's department with outsiders, but he did say something very telling last week when he insinuated the modern role of city manager's across the country is to be more transient than in the past, meaning it is not uncommon anymore for a person in his position to not live in the city he works. That sort of thinking makes one wonder if Hollister is more like a free-agent in baseball with more loyalties to his contract than the home team.
For full disclosure, I was born at Eden Hospital in Castro Valley raised just around the corner under the shadow of the Three Crosses Church. It's not a bad place, but it's no San Leandro.
-STEVEN TAVARESJOIN THE REVOLUTION! www.eastbaycitizen.com