Thursday, October 1, 2009

'They're Not Even Listening!'

As San Leandro resident Madeleine Budnick was addressing the city council Monday night she abruptly stopped in mid-sentence and glared for a few seconds. Budnick and others were at a finance meeting hoping to force action on the city's decision to cut funding for school crossing guards.

While she spoke, it was evident Mayor Tony Santos, City Manager Stephen Hollister and Councilman Jim Prola were engaging in another conversation. They leaned into each other, smiled and softly giggled while Budnick spoke.

“They're not even listening!” said a booming voice ringing from the back of the room belonging to Geoff Landreau, a San Leandro resident who has a child in kindergarten.

Thankful for affirmation to her circumstance, Budnick said “I see that.”

The city manager apologized and Santos offered to give her extra time. Budnick continued. “Adding volunteering for cross walks is a lot to ask parents who already giving up a lot to build up our public schools,” Budnick said until she was interrupted less than a minute later by Santos. “Would you please wrap it up,” to which Budnick glared at the council and finished her remarks and returned to her seat.

Prola was apologetic about the appearance of the three seeming inattentive to the speaker. He said they were discussing the appearance of former school board trustee Stephen Cassidy at the end of the line of speakers waiting to speak. Santos had previously acknowledged the speaker in front of the possible mayoral challenger would be the night's last speaker. Cassidy was eventually allowed to speak.

Budnick said afterwards she was nervous about speaking to the council in public and the perceived slight by the mayor and council only made it more difficult. "It's nothing new. I always see them talking, laughing and eating up there," Budnick said.

She also touched on an issue many parents and younger residents espoused over the city's lack of attention to the newer generations of San Leandrans. "How do you get a bond measure passed when you're not sensitive to the needs of families?” she said. “How do you attract people with children to this town with this kind of attitude?”

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Steven, I appreciate your covering this. I want to correct one quote -- I believe I said that the mayor and council are known for talking and laughing (and by that I mean chuckling amongst or to themselves) during public comment -- I have heard this from parents who have attended other meetings on this issue. I have never seen them eat, however! And I should clarify it's often the mayor himself, along with one or two others, not the entire city council. And I didn't start glaring until I looked up from my notes I was reading and saw they were not listening! After a stunned moment, I did indeed feel slighted and I'm sure it showed.

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