Thursday, August 4, 2011

Santos Says There is No Public Outcry for Charter Reform

San Leandro's former mayor thinks early conversation regarding radical changes to the City's Charter is a waste of time a faulted some of on the Council of failing to understand the their city's history.

"From my perspective, Reed has no historical knowledge on how San Leandro has come to the type of government it has, a government that has worked well for the past 61 years," Tony Santos wrote Wednesday in the Daily Review. "There are reasons why San Leandro has been known in the Bay Area and beyond for having the best city government in the area. It is precisely the type of charter it works under."

Santos, who narrowly lost re-election last year, says there has been no public outcry for the changes Councilwoman Ursula Reed floated in June among them reducing the city council to a five-member body, adding a third term and ending district elections.

"There has not been any public urging to change the two-term limit, and there is no question in my mind that if necessary the people would vote to sustain the two-term limit. I hope this would not be necessary," Santos said, who suggested the council instead focus on the process of hiring a new city manager.

Reed surprised many City Hall observers when she innocently tucked in the proposal during a council meeting last June. The first-term District 2 representative, who is up for re-election next year, was put in a political pickle according to insiders by various city power brokers who zeroed in on her inconsistent voting record.

As reported in The Citizen last June, supporters of Mayor Stephen Cassidy have quietly put Reed in a quandary by urging her to vote with the mayor on various issues or risk the possibility of facing a well-healed opponent next year. Many fear the changes proposed by Reed are meant less to improve upon the Charter than to provide an easier path for Cassidy to gain support for some of his more conservative plans, such as employee pension reform. Others among the city's vast and diverse minority communities also believe lowering the number of representatives will make electing non-whites even more difficult. Reed is currently the only minority on the council.

While it is true San Leandrans have never voiced support for ending term limits or reducing the size of the council, the issue of district elections has, at least, proven confusing for voters in the past. While the entire city votes in each district race, only those who live within the district may run.

Santos recounts how the current set-up came to be after San Leandrans on the west side of the city began grumbling over a distinct power center in the east. In this case, history may be repeating itself as some residents in districts near the Marina begins to the see a shift in power to the hills with the election of Cassidy and others in his sphere of influence, who are younger and with less roots in the San Leandro than earlier generations.


The people from the west side of the city swept the pro business downtown members of the city council out of office in 1948. In 49 , the Freeholders (land owners) wrote the Charter and were paid $30,000 to do so. It was passed by the voters but very few people were enthusiastic about it and only 20 percent of the registered voters turned out for the election. Three of five of the new council members and mayor were opposed to the Charter.
Not many people want to run for office because its a lousy deal running city wide. If you're in a competitive race it may cost $30,000 to $50,000 . No one would shell that much out of their own pocket , so they better learn to do a lot of dancing because in politics as they say "you dance with the partner who brung ya."It may be possible to be independent if you have district elections, something most current elected officials look down on because the city wide elections worked for them.Most races even if there is more than one candidate are uncompetitive.

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