SAN LEANDRO | Sept. 21, 2011 | Mayor Stephen Cassidy acknowledged Monday night one of the criticisms of his first eight months in office is an inability to tame the council's propensity for drawn out and often convoluted discussions.
When Cassidy abruptly ended an already lengthy discussion surrounding the city's proposed polystyrene ban, Councilwoman Diana Souza took exception. The matter had already gained a motion and a second when Cassidy called for a vote, but Souza asked for additional comment. Cassidy gruffly shot down the request and the ban passed by a 5-1 vote with Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak abstaining.
Near the end of the three-hour meeting, Souza raised "concerns about the process" and believed her voice and others on the council were being impugned by Cassidy. "I want to ensure that councilmember have an opportunity to speak before a vote is taken," Souza said, "it's important for all of us to have the same expectation and understanding going forward." She also noted an attempt to make a comment before the motion was offered.
City Attorney Jayne Williams said it was within the chair's right to call for a vote without further discussion once a second motion was obtained. Councilman Jim Prola said it was his experience motions have always been received before deliberation begins. Souza agreed. "We're changing the direction of past practice if we limit it to one or the other," she said.
It is not the first time, a councilmember has called out the new mayor for perceived breaches in decorum or deviation from previous parliamentary rules.
Last June, Souza faulted Cassidy for a habit of pushing discussion out of the public realm and into the private. "The problem I have," Souza said during another council meeting, "if we don't talk about it now, as Councilwoman Cutter says, when is the appropriate time then is it already done and we really feel like we don't have a say and then when we get to the these meetings it's like, well, our hour-and-a-half is gone, ask your question at the next meeting. When we keep pushing off these important questions to deal with, it's frustrating."
A month earlier, Souza also voice a similar sentiment. In July, Prola angrily objected to Cassidy interrupting his comments during a meeting, telling him, "let me finish!"