By Steven Tavares
Who knew when the city manager was repeatedly talking about offering so-called "golden handshakes" to city employees to retire early, the police chief was champing at the bit to get one himself? With pension reform a political hot potato spotlighted in the city by Stephen Cassidy, the stark reality is Willis' early retirement is one last stab at benefiting from a program set up during a web-fueled economy flush with cash, but alarmingly decadent today in the middle of the Great Recession. By retiring at 50, Willis may be entitled to a pension worth more than $140,000-a-year. Deserving or not, it is a tailor-made and easily digestible fact for Cassidy to dole out to prospective voters, instead of the hodge-podge of big numbers and confusing calculations.
The city is thanking Willis for staying on until a successor is named--conveniently just after the election and around the time a possible new mayor takes office. With the San Leandro Police Officers Association endorsing Councilwoman Joyce Rutledge Starosciak (kind of like the politician many around town compare her to, Hillary Rodham Clinton?) and the police chief high-tailing out of town inures himself from any potentially harmful political shrapnel from Mayor Tony Santos. Ironically, Santos lost the police union's backing because of his support to raise the retirement age from 50-years-old to 55 at the same 3 percent of their salary.
Exactly who City Manager Stephen Hollister tabs to be the next police chief could be based on whether the city is able to move forward from the last of seven sexual harassment suits filed before Willis became chief in 2008. Questions of Hollister hiring an in-house candidate while the department apparently had enormous problems with its male-dominated culture against the opposite gender still persists. The press release Monday announcing Willis' retirement went to great lengths to laud the department's change of culture, but in reality, no programs of consequence have been enacted since Attarian's disgraced retirement two years ago. One thing is for sure, in terms of the election, Santos should hope any potentially costly settlement with the three remaining former female police officers comes after November 2 and not before.
*****As the walls of the Hayward School Board continue to buckle and topple, they will not have the help of former Councilwoman Anna May to tidy the place up in the future. As the extended deadline to grab a spot on the November ballot nears today, May says she will not seek the office many believed she would have likely won.
Former assemblywoman Audie Bock is one of four candidates for two seats on the board. Bock is apparently doing a "Filipovich" and is listed as a candidate for for the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District. Incumbent Sheila Sims, Lisa Brunner and William McGee are also on the ballot. Two candidates withdrew their nomination this week and another failed the complete the filing process, while the current board president chose to not seek re-election.
Current Trustee Jesus Armas will attempt to win re-election to the board's two-year seat against Lawrence Fitzpatrick and Annette Walker. There were rumors May and former Hayward city manager Greg Jones would form a three-person ticket to revamp the board, but that possibility is now gone.
May reiterated her previous concerns about the effectiveness of steering the downtrodden school district back to respectability with state control looming on the horizon. "Whatever the board does now has significant impact on the incoming board and I'm not interested in just keeping a seat warm for 4 years if the state takes over," said May.
"The bottom line is this," she said. "Whoever's leading the district on the board, we as a community need to support them in their decisions, even if we do not agree with them. These people for the most part are putting their hearts and souls into serving the community and we have to respect them for that."