Did Starosciak make the campaign's first blunder? | Santos' speech: like a bad actor who won't end his death scene | It's the hospital, stupid! | Corbett gives Dr. West her blessing | Can Cassidy be the next Lincecum?
What if political consulting, like news on the Internet, became free?.....In any race, it is never too early to make a glaring mistake, but fortuitous to make it as far away from election day as possible. Mayoral candidate Joyce Starosciak may have made the campaign's first flub this week when she told both the Daily Review and The Citizen the city was in "decay". Whether it is true or not or justifiably the collective opinion of the hundreds she claims to have spoken, such dystopian views of your own city is quite a perilous tack and opens herself up to questions of what she has done to cause the dysfunction as a city council member. Instead, it now becomes harder for her to highlight what she intends to do to fix the problems. We will have to wait to see whether San Leandrans feel comfortable with a description of their city that conjures up images of Batman's Gotham City as a dark, crumbling place rife with crime and filth and not to mention The Joker and The Penguin running loose on East 14th Street.
It is no wonder the 20-year veteran of San Leandro politics, Mayor Tony Santos, jumped on the dark imagery hours after Starosciak's comments hit the newsstand with the raw exuberance of a child on Christmas morning. Santos was firm when he said anyone claiming the city was "deteriorating" to be "out of line". The passive aggressive references to Starosciak's comments, who was sitting just a few feet away definitely made the rest of the council a bit uneasy since their allegiances to the two candidates may end up split down the middle. As months go by, we will have to see if lightning quick political responses will become a hallmark of Santos and his political consultant Charlie Gilcrest. Both told The Citizen the speech was not prepared, but a source says the gambit to fight back came from Gilcrest. In fact, the dean of San Leandro political history sat knowingly in the council chambers as Santos' rambling speech rolled on.
Santos gets a bad rap around town, but as a political animal his instincts are very underestimated. He may not have nailed the rebuttal to Starosciak's dark comments very well. In fact, one reader of The Citizen said it sounded like a bad actor who doesn't know how to end his death scene since he made three separate, but identical points with various burst of intensity. He did though manage to set the tone for the next couple of months by acting quickly and snatching the mantle of the candidate who paints the city in rainbows and unicorns, which should be the natural position of the incumbent. On a more subtle tone, Santos is apparently trying to portray his other mayoral opponent, the progressive Stephen Cassidy as a conservative. Cassidy said he is not adverse to tax revenue enhancement but has implied a way to balance the budget is to cut city staff pay and jobs. Santos has done excellent job of using his jab to highlight this talking point. The assertion may be outrageous, but Santos has made an astute observation in Cassidy's rhetoric by exploiting its populist deficiencies. Santos went as far as to compare Cassidy to local Republican pariah Lou Filipovich on three occasions. That one may have missed the mark, but was humorous nonetheless. Saying, though, progressives don't take money and jobs away from workers is spot on in this current economy.
To be fair, Cassidy's call for everyone in the city to make sacrifices starts with himself. One of his main campaign talking points, if elected, is to not draw a paycheck until the city balances its budget. The leading by example ploy appears to be gaining traction. We're hearing an awful lot of positive reaction to the plan ranging from lauding his leadership acumen to "it's the right thing to do." Cassidy has used variations of this idea the last couple of months by calling for the city council and mayor to do the same. He did get the council to forego their pre-council meeting dinners, but the downside now is you have council members chomping on cashews and drinking caffeine-free Coke during hearings.
One real political consultant in the area says the keys to victory in any San Leandro race is a three-ring circus featuring (1) labor, (2) the police and fire departments and (3) older voters who are more likely to vote. He says you can win with two of the three. Right now, Santos has all three with labor in a vice, police and fire content and being of full Portuguese descent (although he speaks German and not Portuguese) surely helps him with older voters. There could be a new paradigm in this race that has the potential to change this equation. It's the hospital, stupid! If talk of a settlement between Sutter, the District and the Alameda County Medical Center comes to fruition in coming weeks, it will neutralize any chance this issue can be successfully used against Santos. The Mayor says he's been in the middle of saving San Leandro Hospital far longer than anyone else, but there are zero results to show for us supposed work. The problem for Starosciak is she has done nothing on the issue as a council member, leaving Cassidy as the candidate who can put a huge dent in Santos' cause. If a deal is announced that keeps, at a minimum, emergency room services at the hospital for the short term, Santos will quickly claim credit and any argument that he, in fact, did very little, will evaporate. Voters won't care he has the perception of doing nothing if they still have their ER. Time is ticking for those who need to whittle away at one of Santos' constituencies.
At Wednesday's anti-climatic Eden Township Healthcare meeting, there was widespread worry among nurses in attendance that a candidate hostile to saving San Leandro Hospital would be appointed to the board. In fact, there really was never much chance any of the seven candidates other than the eventually winner, Dr. Bill West, would be picked. Truthfully, if there was just a small adversarial group on the Sutter side, there is an argument to be made the appointment was tilted toward West from the beginning and the others had no fair shot. But, supporters of saving San Leandro Hospital should rest easy after state Sen. Ellen Corbett sent a press release yesterday congratulating West on his appointment. As the politician who has done by far the most to keep the hospital from closing, Corbett's statement is pretty much like the Pope given you his blessing.
Debate on whether the city should adopt Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is due to heat up in December. The female bloc of councilmembers appear opposed to the method of electing leaders where voters rank their choices to determine a consensus winner rather than through a plurality. There is evidence IRV hurts minorities and female candidates along with those outside of the local power structure. IRV sometimes produces odd anomalies and if approved in San Leandro voters would fill out two ballots since IRV only determines elections for offices and not initiatives. Look no further than yesterday's vote for the National League Cy Young voting which uses a variant of IRV to see how the best person may not always win. The difference, though, is Major League Baseball writers use a point system to rank their choices. Pot-smoking San Francisco Giants dynamo Tim Lincecum narrowly won his second consecutive Cy Young award despite not receiving the most first or second place votes. The Oscars will also choose the winner of the year's Best Picture in 2010 using ranked choice voting. If Star Trek somehow wins, then Stephen Cassidy has a chance for mayor. -S.T.
JOIN THE REVOLUTION! www.eastbaycitizen.com