By Steven Tavares
The job of maintaining chocolate bliss is now under the purview of Councilman Michael Gregory. The two-term District 1 representative was unanimously elected Monday night to become the next vice mayor of San Leandro.
Gregory is passed the honorific of city number two from Councilwoman Ursula Reed. San Leandro typically rotates the position on a yearly basis. Before Reed, Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak held the position.
Starosciak jokingly ribbed Gregory about the unofficial job among council members to fill each candy dish. “Your first job,” said Starosciak, “is to ask everybody their candy preferences.” For the record, Councilman Jim Prola prefers Rolo and Councilwoman Diana Souza is partial to jelly beans. She also thanked the outgoing vice mayor for her service. “Thank you Councilwoman Reed, you did a great job of keeping the candy dishes full.”
Reed called her appointment during a contentious mayoral election last year featuring two candidates within the council as “quite an experience.” After her remarks, Reed offered the motion for Gregory’s appointment.
“I want to thank the council for their confidence in me,” said the understated Gregory, who said the increased role in the city and his current job with the American Red Cross will be difficult, but doable with a good dose of time-management.
The role of vice mayor under Mayor Stephen Cassidy may be more time-consuming than any under recent mayors. Cassidy also work full-time as an attorney in San Francisco and has already drawn criticism for the limited amount of time he spends at City Hall.
INCENTIVE TO LIVE IN SAN LEANDRO Esoteric or not, the issue of hiring a new city manager in San Leandro has drawn one absolute: residents want that person to live in the city. The problem is, it is not exactly legal to make residency a prerequisite for employment, but a city can offer financial incentives. According to Cassidy, San Leandro’s offer is anything but enticing and may need to be bolstered for it to become a viable benefit to prospective candidates.
The best it can currently offer is a decade-old loan program for city managers that, Cassidy says, has only been used once by employees and amounts to a one-year, $250,000 bridge loan for housing. “If we want to attract quality managers, this program isn’t achieving that,” said Cassidy.
There appeared to be consensus Monday night among the council to revisit incentivizing residency at the finance committee level in the coming weeks. Prola added: “We have to encourage them with a long-term loan at a low rate.”
Time is of the essence, though, if a revamped loan program becomes part of the equation for new city manager candidates. A group will be interviewed this weekend and current City Manager Stephen Hollister’s tenure ends June 30.
San Leandro's last three police chiefs, including the current one, lived outside of the city as does Hollister,who resides in nearby Castro Valley.
ARE YOU HAPPY, SAN LEANDRO? The Boston hamlet of Somerville made news this weekend in a New York Times feature detailing the city’s push to chart the happiness of its residents.
The question was posed earlier this year in that city’s census and hopes to add the data to other more conventional economic indicators of urban health. The novel idea piqued the interest of Councilman Gregory, who said San Leandro should monitor Somerville’s program and one day implement a version in the Bay Area.
Gregory said there a quite a few similarities between Somerville and San Leandro. Its population of over 77,000 is roughly the same as San Leandro along with its proximity to a major high tech hub and one other striking similarity that could skew each cities happiness quotient—both have large Portuguese populations. My Uncle Manuel lives in Somerville and I’m almost sure his happiness level is at three or below.