|Moderator and former San Leandro councilman Bob Glaze (standing) oddly places the candidates from separate council races at different tables. (Left-right) David L. Anderson, School Trustee Pauline Cutter, Councilman Michael Gregory, Corina Lopez.|
By Steven Tavares
Residents of San Leandro will not be afforded a spoonful a sugar to help the medicine to go down. The budget for sugar may have been already cut.
The four candidates for two city council seats in San Leandro, at times, looking hangdog, did not hide from the city's poor economic outlook, a few were just a bit more gloomy than others.
District 1 Councilman Michael Gregory, the lone incumbent among the group, made little effort to run from the city's record of declining revenues over the past four years. "These are very challenging times," Gregory said. "We have endured unprecedented cuts. Let's tough this out together."
Gregory's challenger David L. Anderson, in response to question on pension reform declared, "Everybody needs to hurt."
Anderson is a recent transplant from Oakland who led the city's school board in the early 90s and faced allegations he attempted to trade his vote for its general counsel in return for a consulting position with the city. No charges were filed, but the accusation has lingered. While Anderson has strong union ties, Gregory does not, yet both have received tepid support from labor.
The race for District 5 came across as somewhat more sunnier to the large midweek crowd at the Marina Community Center last Wednesday. San Leadnro School Board Trustee Pauline Cutter and local businesswoman Corina Lopez hope to replace the termed-out Councilman Bill Stephens.
Both candidate tried to straddle the line between tightening the city's belt and positively moving forward. "We need to stretch our dollars so to keep the things we want," said Lopez. "We can no longer claim victim to the economy."
Cutter called for both police and fire, the largest segment of the city's expenditures, to help out. "I would call everyone to the table," she said. "Everyone needs to share in this. Everybody is a part of the solution and the recovery."
On the issue of Measure Z, the city's initiative to raise the sales tax to 10 percent, Cutter tried to carve a slight distinction between her and Lopez. Cutter called the plan a "Band-Aid" while Lopez said the increase in revenue, if passed, would help San Leandro "soften the blow" from a weak economy. Both Anderson and Gregory also support Measure Z. Anderson, though, took exception to the length of the proposed sales tax increase at seven years.
In many ways the council forum that preceded the candidates for mayor focused far more closely on the state of San Leandro's lagging business climate. District 5 encompasses much of the downtrodden and empty storefronts on East 14th Street surrounding City Hall. "We're at a crossroads with our businesses," said Lopez. She also called for the city to offer more attractive and competitive incentive packages for large corporations. The statement was in reference to the parent company of The North Face, which was recently lured from San Leandro to Alameda by virtue of lucrative tax breaks. "To be good, you have to be competitive," said Lopez. "We have failed to be competitive."
Gregory, always the patron saint of good health and urban walkability said the city's continuing effort to transform its downtown to a walking friendly region for consumers will attract more businesses. "We're going to have to build our downtown to get these stores," he said in reference to stores such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market.
When it came to one of the area's hot-button issues--pension reform--the four candidates were all over the board. Cutter said, "I believe everyone needs a pension." but later added "they cannot be sustainable." Lopez, on the other hand, appeared to place herself as one of the few candidates in any race sounding reticent about the near-term benefits of having city employees pay a portion of their pensions. "The two-tier system is not the answer," said Lopez. "The benefits will not be realized until 10-15 year from now."
She also described herself coming from a poor, working-class background with her father, now retired, collecting Social Security and a union pension, yet still struggling to make ends meet. "It's not enough," she said while concluding the treatment of the growing number of Baby Boomers may be a "generational issue" to contemplate. Gregory and Anderson both supported pension reform but did not give any further details.
CONTINUE SCROLLING TO READ THE QUOTE SHEET FROM THE SEPT. 8 FORUM.