HAYWARD | Oct. 27, 2011 | Talking trash when the other person isn't in the room is one thing, but taking shots right in front of the person is laudable, but also downright gangsta.
This is what Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney said last week at a fundraiser for assembly candidate and Councilman Bill Quirk: "One of the things that happen to people when they go to Sacramento is that they sometimes forget where they came from and sometimes they throw Hayward under the bus."
Quirk, won't be one of those politicians, the gentile, but sometimes sharp-witted Sweeney told the large gathering in Downtown Hayward. "So, I'm going to support Bill because he's going to standup for Hayward," he added.
The statement appeared to be a ringing endorsement for Quirk, but more poignantly, it was a stunning public dressing down and backhanded slight directed at someone else in the room--State Majority Leader Ellen Corbett.
"When the chips are down and the speaker is going to call you into the office, you know what we want you to vote this way and if you don't vote this way, you may lose your committee assignments, your office or this or that somebody needs to stand up for Hayward."
As Sweeney unleashed the barely disguised rejoinders in Corbett's direction, the long-time representative of the area, turned her back to the stage and instead attempted to spark up conversations at the bar at the back of the room. Corbett later said she wasn't listening to Sweeney's remarks. Sweeney said his comments were not specifically directed at Corbett or the city's other representative Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, but is part of his responsibility as an elected official to voice the city's concerns with legislators.
Nevertheless, Sweeney has been breathing fire at Sacramento's addiction to fixing its budget woes on the backs of local government. A city council meetings does not go by without some type of comments directed at the Legislature and specifically Corbett and Hayashi. During a recent discussion over the possibility of further cutting city services, Sweeney blamed Corbett and Hayashi for their role asked viewers of the city's cable access channel to complain to their offices. "He's not going to let up on Ellen," said Councilman Marvin Peixoto. Others including Hayward Councilwoman Barbara Halliday and City Manager Fran David have also had partcularly harsh words for Sacramento.
"Those of us who work at the local level are tired of the state of California always taking from the local level for balancing their budget and, of course, it's never balanced," Sweeney said last week. "The state needs to solve their problem with their resources and take care of their issues and let local government have the resources we had and should have to provide services to our citizens."
Sweeney's trash talk is not just public posturing. He says the he and other officials have voiced their considerable concern in closed doors. "As a council, individually and collectively, we have made our positions known to both Mary and Ellen many times over on these issues," he said.
"We've heard things like, 'Oh, we can't believe the bill would really do that' and then we show them the bill and it sure does that. There's been a certain disingenuoisness in the responses we frequently get and public needs to know what is really going on."
What? You going to take that, Ellen?
Corbett denies leaving Hayward or any of her other constituents in the lurch. "I keep my ear to the ground and listen and I do my job in Sacramento based on that," she said, but also returned Sweeney serve with a blistering forehand shot.
"If I take a vote because I think education should get funded. I take a vote for education to be funded. I guess he doesn't care about education," Corbett said of Sweeney. "That's all I have to say."
Hayward's two-term mayor has quite a bit of credibility in criticizing Sacramento and its legislators. Sweeney was a former state senator and assemblyman, himself, over a decade ago. He recalls once working on a bipartisan budget amendment attempting to reinstate property tax revenues to local coffers only to be summoned before the party leadership.
"I got called into the speaker's office and said I will not do this and blah, blah, blah. I went forward with it and you know, I came out of it with all my fingers and toes," Sweeney said. "At the end of the day, you want people up there willing to stand up for us even if it means things get uncomfortable."
(Sweeney drops the mic, cooly exits the room.)