Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cassidy's Politics of Personality (Or Lack Thereof)


Stephen Cassidy announcing his run for mayor last year.
By Steven Tavares

Stephen Cassidy readily admits it's not his personality you should vote for, but his ideas. He is the self-proclaimed "black sheep" of his family; not because of a proclivity to trouble. Instead, he comes from a family of jocular salesman armed with a witty lines or two. Cassidy doesn't have that. It's sometimes difficult to watch him form a smile. It sometimes appears like he believes the potential voters he's chatting with is judging him and, of course, they are.

In a time when perfectly quaffed, well-tailored, handsome men seemed to be on the cusp of victory on November 2, Cassidy is making a threat to upset the political apple cart in San Leandro the old-fashioned way--with ideas--some very unpopular, some practical. So, the question is: can substance solely trump style or do you need a little of both?

"I'm not a political animal," says Cassidy, yet he has correctly read the political tea leaves of the last year when more Americans are losing jobs and struggling to pay everyday bills. The rise of the Tea Party has tapped into this growing disenchantment, albeit, in very general terms. The result has been a zigging and zagging of multiple and divergent issues, which sometimes careen against each other at the same time. Some question whether this group is burgeoning political party, but many see it as a hodge-podge of unfocused anger. Cassidy's campaign, in deeply blue Alameda County, has become a life line to these voters who tend to sit on the right of the political spectrum. One Cassidy supporter living on eastern side of San Leandro, all at once, complained about President Obama, health care, San Leandro schools, the decline of his neighborhood and immigrants. He also fit the profile of Tea Partier: older, white male and very unhappy.

It's become common knowledge among volunteers walking precincts in San Leandro to find a stark correlation between Republican voters and the Cassidy for Mayor lawn signs displayed in their front yards. Cassidy says there has been no concerted effort on his part to court the right, "I'm courting everyone," he says, but whether by design or not, Cassidy's 18-month campaign for the mayor's office has revealed little in terms of hopeful rhetoric for a brighter future in the city. His standard stump speech always contains the line "we are on the path to bankruptcy" along with fueling perceptions of an increase in crime and a conga line of businesses leaving the city. "Most people know that we're not achieving full potential," said Cassidy. "We're not where we should be." To be fair, one of the more depressing developments during this election season is the dearth of sunny projections for San Leandro. Fellow mayoral candidate Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak has called the city in "decay" and even Mayor Tony Santos has unconvincingly said, "San Leandro is doing okay" during a recent candidates forum.

While Cassidy may be riding the bogey man factor to its full extent, it may also be more than a campaign tactic, but also a hallmark of his personality. There may be no piece of prevailing wisdom in the city more agreed upon than the notion Cassidy does not play well with others. His four years on the San Leandro Board of Trustees featured constant bickering and condescension from him to colleagues and opponents. Cassidy readily admits this. "There were times of confrontation, but this is certainly good for democracy," he says. A battle of personalities between a group of trustees and the teachers' union against former school superintendent Christine Lim illustrated the combative nature of Cassidy many now say would conflict with the business of the city should he become mayor. "I came to the opinion that the superintendent was the wrong leader for the district," Cassidy said. He cited her poor record of employee relations and her lack of team-building skills for his belief. "She was a lightning-rod for controversy," he said and a "poor spokesperson for the district."

Cassidy left the board in 2008, two years before the eventually firing of Lim this January. He did not run for re-election at the urging of his wife and believes he accomplished the goals he set during his single term. Unfortunately, the ill-will conceived during his stay on the board regarding Lim still stokes rancor among some teachers and a small, but angry minority group, who believe she was fired because of her independence and notably, her race. Not only does this group have it in for Cassidy, but several others have joined them in the past year over blunt strikes to the interests.

Labor unions loathe Cassidy's softly-tinged anti-union rhetoric. The president of the San Leandro Police Officers Association is clear when he let loose an "anybody but Cassidy" meme in the press this month. Cassidy called the rhetoric from unions a "lot of hot air." "I think during elections you get a lot of hyperbole," said Cassidy. "I believe once the election is over, everyone will sit down and get to work." The one group hit hardest by Cassidy's campaign platform is the very employees he may lead once elected. "City employees need to pay more towards the cost of their pension," he has said since the beginning of his campaign last year. Santos and Starosciak have criticized the plan as blaming city employees for the economic downturn. "I see too many politicians attacking public employees and their pension," Councilman Jim Prola and strong union supporter said this week. "All you read about is the ones at the top of the pension scale." The average employee pension, he said, only yields $25,000, far less than the exorbitant figures mentioned by proponents of pension reform.

Much of the anger from city employee over Cassidy's intention to close the city's projected deficit by having them pay up to $3 million of their own salary towards pensions is the argument they have already made significant compromises to help the budget situation. They note city employees have forgone pay increases the past two years, agreed to raise the retirement age to 55-years-old while paying more towards their health insurance premiums. In addition, the city's current financial burden regarding pensions, city employees say conversely, is a result of concessions made by the unions a decade ago to help the city save money. With the economy still flush with money stemming from the Dot-com boom, city employee unions agreed to the current pension program instead of pay increases, thereby saving the city millions in the near term. "The city would actually be in big trouble now without the employees help," said a city employee who declined to be named.

Cassidy's gambit alienating city employees could make City Hall as fractious as the atmosphere at the school board two years ago. In addition to the likely battles with employees and unions, it is difficult to craft a scenario within the future city council where Cassidy could form a coalition to move his ideas forward. Prola and Councilman Michael Gregory (should he win re-election) maintain Santos' old group, Starosciak along with Councilwoman Diana Souza often vote together and Vice Mayor Ursula Reed is routinely the wildcard. Councilman Bill Stephen would have been a candidate to caucus with Cassidy if not for his retirement. The District 5 candidate Corina Lopez would likely gravitate towards Prola leaving the uncertainty of whether Cassidy's former colleague from the school board Pauline Cutter would put slight differences aside.

Whether Cassidy is only one man on the island of the mayor's office is an issue voters will need to keep in mind next month. The highest ranking city official who shares Cassidy's signature desire to reform employee pension is City Manager Stephen Hollister. But, Cassidy, last week said this about city management: "They want to blame the economy for the mistakes they have committed. We don't have a mayor or a city manager that takes responsibility for this."

When it comes to Stephen Cassidy, even his allies are not safe.


It's apparent Tavares has a crush on Cassidy--he's writing about him every day now. How sweet!

Funny how Tavares tows the line of painting Cassidy as a Republican-backed tea partier. Doesn't he realize that Holmes, Katz and prettymuch everyone on the Cassidy Campaign are part of SLCAN - which leans as far to the left as one can without falling over...

and if Cassidy is so racist against Asians, then why did he work so hard to get Hermy Almonte elected to school board?

I'm sure those seniors in San Leandro who didn't get a Social Security increase this year and can't afford medicine, those who have lost their jobs and are hoping not to lose their homes and are struggling to feed their families feel real bad for city employees making a parltry $100K per year who will have to wait until they are elderly at 55 to retire.

I just wonder if people in San Leandro are as stupid as Tony and Tavares think they are? Guess we'll find out November 2!

This story is right on the mark. How is he going to run things with such a bad reputation that doesn't seem to have changed? He's with all those liberals at SLCAN, but that's the point, he thinks he fooling everybody with this pension crap. Doom and gloom doesn't win election, my friend above.

Another thing...Cassidy's supporters must be all Republican because they all talk like George Bush. No matter how many facts are given, they don't want to talk about the issue, but instead, attack the messenger. I wouldn't know 99% of the stuff about Cassidy if I didn't read the East Bay Citizen.

Pension is the issue this year. Every left-leaning liberals understand today's public service pensions are unsustainable. If you would rather have a higher sales tax than decreased pensions - how about you donate your own money to the city, but leave mine alone?

Whoever wrote the first comment hit it on the nail. WHO THE HELL CARES WHAT THE DAMN CITY EMPLOYEES WANT? They are the hired help and there are dozens upon dozens of people who can take their place. Screw them, cut their pay, benefits and cut OUR TAXES!

Warmth does not mean a thing. No one is going to be happy when there is not enough money. It is time for the family of San Leandro to wake up and realize that not only are there going to fewer trips to Costco, there will not be a car either. No new shoes and food stamps are the new commodity of choice. We are broke and it is time for everyone to knuckle down and quit grousing. Learn that yes is ok for an endearment and no is the most endearing thing you can say to expense. Mel

Btw, interesting that Santos isn't willing to forgo a salary, unlike Cassidy. Santos' financial holdings show hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock. It makes one wonder how he has that much money when his only professional job was insurance claims adjuster. With all his involvings in local politics, it just makes one wonder if all that moolah was made on the up-and-up?

Santos is the Mayor of Simpleton. He's not proud of the fact that he don't know much, but he loves San Leandro.

It just shows that he is smarter than Cassidy, since Cssidy has the big income job and relatively small savings.

Maybe Cassidy isn't that smart when it comes to finances and savings.

Hmmm and he wants to bring that skill to the city budget?

Can San Leandro afford someone that horrible at saving in his personal account?


Santos is the one who has driven San Leandro to bankruptcy, not Cassidy. Santos is 30 years older than Cassidy, so I would hope he has more savings--especially since Santos grew up in the first great depression. I hear the compound interest on bribes and payoffs is pretty good!

San Leandro is not bankrupt, the budget has been balances every year. This is just one of the lies that Cassidy tells people.

If you have proof of corruption show it.

Once again only guy charged with anything is Cassidy.

Your name is not Manuel, it's Mike Santos! Is daddy making you write these comments to get your allowance?

Hey Manuel-bot. You're like one of the CHAOS characters from Get Smart. bahahahahahaha First of all you can write worth a damn. Are even a U.S. citizen?

Come for the stupid, stay for the full on retard! I swear, the entire bay area is nothing but one huge waste of mow chowder felching, bran dead idiots in dire need of AL Queerdo setting off a Nuke!
The Got-Damn Guv

Guv? Is that you? Welcome back. I'm sure Nicholas Terry will be happy.


I post my name when I post and at 2:30 I was working.

So guess again.

Mike Santos

And theres a baseball game on get of the computer

Mike Santos

Is Cassidy under investigation with the FPPC again?


I heard through the grapevine a complaint was filed with the FPPC recently by angry parents.

Not that I care to defend Santos, but let's do the math here. He bought his house in what 1962 or 1963? He paid what???? $16 or $18 grand for it? So his mortgage was probably never over $200 a month. His wife also worked. The property tax, thanks to Prop 13. is probably $900 a year. The house has probably been paid off for over 20 years. So of course he's going to have some money in the savings and investments.

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