Friday, May 7, 2010

The Times' Anti-Union Stance Against City Workers


SL TIMES POST-PRODUCTION MEETING San Leandro Times Editor Jim Knowles is not present, nor is his reporter or the lady who answers phones. I brought Krispy Kremes. We'll start the meeting without them.

You don't have to look much further than read the San Leandro Times' letters to the editor section to realize why the weekly is committed to undressing the benefits of the city's unionized city workers. Mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy receives space far too frequently for many tastes, while others linked to him through his time on the school board also lend their opinions almost weekly. As part of his economic plan to save San Leandro from "bankruptcy," Cassidy, who has long backed cutting the city's growing pension program and called for the cuts in staff. Mayor Tony Santos famously equated Cassidy's plan to self-styled Republican revolutionary Lou Filipovich for his comments and again mocked Cassidy recently by asking rhetorically if "Cassidy has joined the Tea Party."

This week's edition of Times revisits one of its off-the-mark stabs at curing the city's current ecomomic woes: blame the few high-wage earning city workers for the problem. The Times reported San Leandro City Manager Stephen Hollister's new contract calls for a 15 percent boost in his earning above the next city employee. According to the Times, Hollister will make over $202,000; that's a 1 percent increase over his last one-year contract, but there is more. The Times also reports Hollister, like other city employees, will lose 5 percent of their salaries through 12 furlough days approved by the city council last winter. So, the "City Manager To Make Over $200,000" headline is actually "City Manager Takes 4% Pay Cut." That is a huge difference in editorial decision-making and just another attempt to erect divisions between workers of the virtually the same economic class. Hollister making $200,000 is hardly the equivalent of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. (Watch Saturday Night Live's spoof on public employees, here.)


In the name of saving the city's economy, The Times wrote one of its most egregious articles two weeks ago by painting the construction of the new Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Leandro as some type of money-draining endeavor. The underlining story to nearly every event in this city and the nation is the poor economy, but isn't the largest construction project in the city's history far more lucrative than the loss of property taxes on the Kaiser site? What the Times did not report is Kaiser will be paying property taxes on the land for the next four years or until the complex is operational. If there is one issue pointing to a complete lack of editorial judgment, it is this one. Is the paper needlessly stoking fear in its readers or does it know something Nobel Prize-winning economists do not foresee? By 2014, the Great Recession of 2008-11 will surely be behind us and alarmist stories like these only foment discontent where none exists. Besides, it's a hospital, not a racetrack.


Typographical errors: none.


The Times said, "San Leandro got a new vice mayor at Monday night's City Council meeting, District 2 representative Ursula Reed was elected by her fellow council members, unanimously, but Jim Prola also wanted the job." Did he? Councilman Prola told The Citizen he did not want the job and had attempted to enlist Councilman Michael Gregory instead. Did the Times writer make the insinuation because Prola seconded Gregory's motion of his own appointment? Prola, in fact voted for himself, but Reed also voted for herself, too. The unanimous vote for Reed was 7-0. The clear subtext to the vote was purely political. It was a proxy vote for backers of Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak against her mayoral opponent, Tony Santos. That was the story.

Starting today and every Friday, The Citizen will try to set the record set with a post-production criticism of the San Leandro Times, but get this, without its staff. There's nothing more interesting than a newspaper war! Coming tomorrow and every Saturday, we'll have a rundown of the week's most interesting blog postings from sites around the East Bay blogosphere and every Sunday, a compendium of links to stories and features from the world of politics set in the context of our region and state.

JOIN THE REVOLUTION! www.eastbaycitizen.com


Yes, the problem is overpaid City Workers. The manager of Wal-Mart produces something and makes under $100,000 a year. The City Manager produces nothing and is raking in over $200,000 a year. That's the difference. It's easier not to go to Wal-Mart than it is to sell your house and move.

Thanks for keeping Jim Knowles' facts straight. Something he and his employees have a difficult time doing themselves. And bad decision making is rampant at the Times--e.g, reporting what businesses do or don't have burglar alarms after a high profile robbery--so would-be crooks know which ones to hit.

Frank Lynn

Thank you East Bay Citizen and I look forward to each friday's "correction" of the stories reported in the SL Times. The SL Times has frustrated me for some time due to its lack of accuracy,its publishing of the same letter writers over and over and its lack of any depth or investigative reporting.

$200k for a city manager is not excessive, especially in the Bay Area.

Why is it not excessive? These City Managers don't produce anything. Mostly they absorb taxes. Correction, they produce nothing, yet are rewarded with excessive pay. Alfred's analogy to a department store manager is correct.


Since you chose to quote Mayor Santos criticizing me without affording me the opportunity to respond in your entry, I will respond here.

There is nothing progressive about running a budget deficit. Nor is advocating for fiscal discipline in the face of repeated deficit spending anti-union. Just ask the scores of former City of Vallejo employees and residentssd of the city if they wish their council counsel showed greater fiscal restraint.

Even before the recession began, San Leandro under Mayor Santos was in the red. Mayor Santos has racked up $21 million in deficit spending over the past three years and has proposed a budget for next year that includes further deficit spending.

Nor is advocating for a sales tax increase, what Mayor Santos and council member Starosciak propose, progressive. Sales taxes are the most regressive tax we have - hurting seniors on fixed incomes and families struggling in the recession the hardest.

What is progressive in these times is fiscal common sense. What you will never hear Tony Santos or Joyce Starosciak say, but you will from me, is that San Leandro can no longer afford to pay 100% of the pension costs of city employees. It's that simple.

To preserve employee pensions, there must be reform and that includes employees paying for a portion of the cost of their pensions. None other than former San Leandran and our Treasurer Bill Lockyer said last year, “It’s impossible for the Legislature to reform the pension system and, if we don’t, it bankrupts the state."

I do agree with you Steven about the San Leandro Times article on the City Manager's salary. It didn't get the whole story, but not for the reasons you state.

Base salary is only one component of the City Manager's total compensation. When you run the numbers, here is what you get:

Salary - $202,692
Other [admin. pay; auto allowance $475/m)] - $17,394
Pension (2.5 @ 55) - $45,497
Health & Welfare (med., den., life ins., long-term dis.) - $17,443

That's over $280,000 a year.

Now in fairness to the City Manager he advocated for the same pension reform I have - to no avail due to opposition from the mayor.

All the best,


Bozo the clown, sorry Steve Cassidy wants to bust the unions and break contracts w/o negotiation, sounds like a republican union busting position to me, but I dont have a law degree so maybe I dont understand.
$280000 for running a corporation the size of San Leandro is about half what the city manager would make in the private sector.
I think he should live in San Leandro but he isnt over paid.
When your a attorney and you rape your clients for 30 or 40% of their settlements thats the rip off.
The problem with politicians is too many are attorneys.
Reminds me of the joke whats sad about the bus of attorneys with one empty seat going off the cliff? The empty seat,

San Leandro is NOT a Corporation. It produces nothing. It only sucks out of the private sector. There are less employees in the City than in a typical Wal-Mart or a a warehouse distribution. So NO he doesn't make half what he would make in the private sector.

The discussion of whether a city or government should be run like a business will likely be part of the gubernatorial races this fall, espcecially if Meg Whitman is the Republican nominee. Is the argument specious? I don't know. When I pass by Google in Mountain View, I always wonder why they have so many industrial garbage bins around the site. They don't produce anything to throw away. I will say this, the last president had MBA and every Wall Street CEO from Blankfein to Fuld had one, too. The corporate intelligence of these business types apparently doesn't work well in government, unless you're the rich hoping to get richer. In that case, get a membership at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton and lock out the poorest of your employees.

Blankfein is a Democrat and Goldman Sachs contributes heavily to Democrats and Barack Hussein Obama. It's not a question about holding an MBA, residents of Estudillo Estates loves telling everyone about their Masters Degree, it's whether or not one adheres to the principles of the free market or centralized governance.


By mentioning Blankfein and Goldman Sachs you wish to associate Democrats with the abuses of the "too big to fail" financial institutions and other businesses.

Deal with this: Obama is now ready to sign the strongest reform of financial institutions since the Great Depression, and the bills which just carried through the House and Senate gained almost no Republican support. The Democratic caucus and President own these reforms.

The Bush years, many with Republican majorities in Congress, failed to enforce responsible behavior from the corporations. The big crash happened on his watch, remember?

Doug, what part of Blankenfein and Goldman Sachs contributing to Democrats don't you understand?

Big Deal; the Democrats own the reforms, they should since they're using it to bailout their buddies on Wall Street. Can't escape facts Doug; The Democrats are the Party of Wall Street.

Who came up with "too big to fail"? Oh it was little Timmy Geitner, the theiving bastard who evaded taxes and is now Treasury Secretary. bahahhahhahahahahaa Doug must be getting his talking points from Stark's office.

Why did Wall Street and Big Business bitterly oppose the financial reform efforts which Congress is now completing? Because it's going to force large financial institutions to set aside their own money if future crashes happen so that taxpayer money wouldn't have to be used for bailouts.

What does that make the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who conferenced privately with Wall Street executives a couple of months ago, then came out of the meeting with a bunch of lying anti-reform talking points and led his caucus to vote against reform?

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