Mar. 6, 2012 | San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy is battling schizophrenia when it comes to taxes. He supports them sometimes, protests them other times. That's the easy assessment. His uneven record on sales and parcel taxes are also exacerbated by a special knack for placing his chips on loser measures and a weird schadenfreude when it comes to pressuring the public to do their share while they continue to struggle economically.
Cassidy took the podium during last week's uncharacteristically raucous school board meeting to state the district's case for a new parcel tax. Addressing elected leaders from the public lectern has been a successful gambit for Cassidy from the beginning of his political career where he's far better at giving it then receiving it.
Despite sobering news from an election consultant indicating the school board's proposed parcel tax measure for the November ballot is likely a wounded duck going forward, Cassidy urged them to trudge on. He called the state's two-third majority needed for passing tax referendums "the tyranny of the minority." Toiling from within the minority is something Cassidy has done exclusively since election to the school board in 2004. He lasted just one term after constantly rubbing his colleagues the wrong way, but there was one occasion where he and fellow trustee Mike Katz cajoled the board to follow their lead and the result was not beneficial to the fortunes of school children. The board unanimously approved placing parcel tax on this fall's ballot.
A few years earlier a scene similar to what played out last week also occurred. Another consultant told the board the likelihood of a similar parcel tax passing appeared dead in the water, according to their polling. No matter, said trustees Cassidy, Katz and the rest of the board. The parcel tax failed that year leaving the district in the hole with over $150,000 in costs related to the ill-fated measure. In the aftermath, the seeds for the mysterious ousting of the school superintendent were laid (she did not support the measure) and a school district surviving on dwindling state funding struggled on with a net loss from Cassidy and Katz's gamble.
Four years later, in another instance where Cassidy's expertise in the realm of tax measures should be questioned, he campaigned for mayor vehemently against Measure Z, the half-cent sales tax increase that eventually passed. No other decision has done more to lead the city's to a modicum of economic health than Measure Z. It's a fact that constantly bedevils Cassidy as he tries to conjure an atmosphere of despair deep enough to prescribe the local equivalent of a shock doctrine where fiscally conservative values can be installed under the guise of a last-ditch savior.
Despite inattentive local reports, Cassidy's recent comments illustrating the need for drastic moves on employee benefits and pension show just how important Measure Z has been to the city's fortunes. He noted a widening deficit six years from now. Also the same year Measure Z sunsets. Despite Cassidy's rhetoric, San Leandro is nowhere near the mess worsening in Stockton. In fact, San Leandro's present economic state is much closer the local powerhouse of Dublin than any other East Bay city.
Fast forward to today and Cassidy is on record supporting to extension of Measure B, the regional half-cent sales tax for transportation project likely headed to the November ballot. So how much in taxes can San Leandrans bear to handle? Cassidy is most liberal only when he's standing next to Sen. Ellen Corbett. Outside of this photo opportunity, he is showing himself to be a moderate conservative in sheep's clothing. Raising taxes on the middle and lower class and suppressing public employee wages and benefits isn't how a Democrat acts, especially when the city is sitting on a potentially whopping $14 million reserve.
Those funds are intended for rainy days. If you haven't noticed the state of the economy, the forecast is still gray and drizzly, but nowhere near the days of torrential rainfall. Despite Cassidy's constant assertion, the people have already done their part in saving the city, it's time for government to do theirs.