Monday, March 7, 2011

San Leandro Councilmembers Laying Down Roadblocks?

By Steven Tavares

They may not be Batman and Robin, but a new dynamic duo may have much to say about how the San Leandro City Council proceeds with new Mayor Stephen Cassidy at the helm.

In recent weeks, it has been difficult not to notice San Leandro Councilwomen Joyce Starosciak and Diana Souza quietly chatting among themselves during meetings. Their apparent chumminess, which has been there for quite awhile, is becoming more pronounce as the two vote in lock-step with each other; on several occasions against the mayor’s vote.

The emerging voting bloc was no more apparent than two week’s ago when Souza and Starosciak attempted to stifle Cassidy’s wish to appoint three more members to the Shoreline Citizens’ Advisory Committee. The collective loss of 35 minutes of life for those in attendance to watch a meeting featuring more fits and starts than any other in recent memory was partly the result of Souza and Starosciak’s aim to put off giving the mayor more power. The other was Cassidy's inability to control the flow of the meeting.

At one point, Starosciak yelled out, “point of order!” before appealing to the city attorney the item needed to be agendized before being approved by the council. She was overruled and the council approved the right to appoint new members, 5-2. Souza and Starosciak voted no.

How Cassidy will massage or attempt to bulldoze the council towards his wishes is one of the more pivotal stories of this year. Souza, Starosciak and, at times, Councilman Michael Gregory can be counted to provide a near majority. The other? Councilman Jim Prola? But the most liberal member of the body is showing a willingness to work with Cassidy, at least on the surface. It may be Prola’s political acumen at work or a function of his affable personality, or both, but his alliances can sometime surprise people.

Although he typically voted with former Mayor Tony Santos, especially on liberal-tinged issues, he did not always get along with the long-time San Leandro pol. Years ago, Santos once sued Prola and his wife, San Leandro School Trustee Diana Prola. The two patched up their differences and nary an observer would guess as their past animosity.

Who knows what Souza, Starosciak and Prola are up to, but Prola is an avowed union man and Starosciak infamously alluded to Cassidy’s difficulty with labor during the mayoral campaign. With pension reform and city employee labor negotiation coming in the near future, it’s wise to keep an eye of the potential posturing by the council before the contentious issue stands front and center in coming months.

Q: What could be some of the political aims of Souza and Starosciak in being a bulwark against Cassidy's positions?

Q: Some may say they are pandering to the unions by opposing Cassidy, but do the local unions have any real power in San Leandro anymore? They couldn't even get their guy re-elected last November.


Oh lord, talk about the night of the iguana's.

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