When it comes to government, the best way to get things done is to arrive at new ideas and construct a coalition. Some call it accountability; let's just call it good politics. What is not good policy at the local level is government by way of polling. In fact, the only poll politicians in San Leandro should heed is at the ballot box and proceed with their own ideas and agendas.
What makes the recent $40,000 polling expenditure so baffling aside from its poor monetary value is its lack of any new insight into the minds of San Leandrans. The survey showed the city believes police and fire protection is overwhelmingly important to their daily lives. Mayor Tony Santos said there "weren't too many surprises" in the poll and referenced its similarity to a recent survey two years ago. Councilman Jim Prola acknowledged police and fire are always number one in people's minds and Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak was only "shocked" with how high the percentage was.
Even during times when the city is cutting excess spending, the tragedy of spending tens of thousands of dollars on a poll that reflects everything the city already expects shows a lack of political courage to puncture standard sacred cows. Too often the city trumpets fear in the name of adding more officer to the police force and opportunistically uses the same strategy when crime rates are low with the same amount of officers.
Is there a local politician or candidate courageous enough to say 88 officers is the perfect number or dare say decrease the figure. There was a perfectly good reason why San Leandro did not receive tax dollars to boost its police department, while Hayward and other locales succeeded--because there is not a crime problem in San Leandro. To further make the point, the city is situated in a horrendous economy littered with high unemployment and close proximity to Oakland, where crime is definitely a defining issue. Could there be another political issue gnawing at San Leandrans? Prola believes so.
"They're angry at Sacramento because they did not take care of the budget, except taking money from where they wanted the money to go," he said. "People want the money to stay in the local communities and when they take the money away, I get angry too as a citizen." Prola and others may be right when they say residents are angry at Sacramento's do-nothing perception, but it is doubtful such derision falls specifically on the results of this survey. Instead, it's politicians offering up the samebogeymen to positive results come election time. The real reason may be years of conditioning. If a priest is talking to you about God. Of course, it's important, but was it really on your mind if the clergyman wasn't standing in front of you?
When the city leaders stop thinking like an industrial city of the past and more like a progressive, high tech, green industrial city it strives to be will the prized young creative class flock to the city, until then uncertainty and well-worn dogma will continue to serve the old-guard's purposes.
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