By Steven Tavares
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"Here's my thinking," San Leandro Councilwoman Ursula Reed said last week on the subject of lowering the number of representatives from seven to five.
Reed is in a bind.
Reed said last Monday night changing the charter to include her suggestions would save the city money. Councilmembers would not have to think about cutting pay and benefits, she said, although she added San Leandro would save with fewer elections with the increase in term limits from two to three. Incumbents would still stand for re-election no matter the number of terms.
"It could and should function with five [councilmembers]," she said while urging it be presented to the city rules committee for vetting. But observers say Cassidy and supporters in the community have zeroed in on Reed as a malleable and weak incumbent next year.
It was reported last week, San Leandro School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose, a strong supporter of Cassidy, may be interested in Reed's District 2 seat. Floating a trial balloon for Mack-Rose's candidacy is a two-pronged strategy, sources say, to cajole Reed to either vote more often with Cassidy, who has again suffered from attracting support for his ideas, or face Mack-Rose and possibly formidable monetary support from the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce and one well-healed member of the community.
One city employee in attendance during Reed's announcement noted it peculiar that just moments after she spoke, Cassidy had already coined the phrase "charter reform" to describe Reed's surprising suggestion. The insinuation being Cassidy's powerplay over Reed is sticking, but it also points to often-maligned new mayor angling to gain more power within the charter in the future. Possibly a stab at installing a full-time mayor or transferring some powers of the city manager to the mayor's office.
Councilman Jim Prola said he believes residents are quite content with term limits, but is amendable at looking at taking a look at the city charter, which has not been tweaked in decades. There was a bit of disagreement from Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak who said it generally takes time for new members to gain their footing. "It disturbs me that I have the most experience with six years," she said.
Any change to the charter could be difficult especially when it essentially translates to residents losing representation. Reed said each district could be inflated to over 21,000 San Leandrans. That would be up from the current districting of around 13,000 per area.