Stephen Cassidy: in the drink?
The stubborn moderate conservative mayor surprised many in 2010 with his victory based upon fiscal responsibility and the demonization of public workers. However, what worked two years ago didn't catch lightning in bottle this November. The likely defeat of all three of his endorsed candidates for the City Council, including two incumbents, is a stunning referendum against his beliefs and possibly pointing to his personal inability to compromise.
Anyone can see the San Leandro City Council is stunningly divided. You can hear the strain and frustration in the voices of Councilmembers Diana Souza and Pauline Cutter when they address Cassidy. You can read the puzzlement on Councilman Jim Prola’s face when he gets cut off by the mayor. The problem is Cassidy and his long-held interest in participating only in “my way or the highway politics.”
It’s not working and the disbelief in San Leandro over his decision to not only back challengers to incumbents Ursula Reed and Prola’s seat, but also taking the extreme step toward helping fund their campaigns hardened the resolve of his detractors. “These folks were already on the council,” said Benny Lee, who won the District 4 seat over Chris Crow, another candidate endorsed by Cassidy. “To do something like that, it didn’t sit well with a lot of people.” District 6 candidate Hermy Almonte went down in defeat to Prola this week, while Reed appears on the cusp on narrowly beating out Morgan Mack-Rose.
Just how Cassidy will be able to govern in this environment of enmity and suspicion is unclear. “He did what he had to do and I did what I had to do,” Prola said of Cassidy’s opposition to his re-election. “I want to work with him, but everybody needs to give a little.” However, one side may need to give a lot more than other. As it stands come January, Cassidy will likely have only Councilwoman Cutter as an ally. Prola, Souza, Gregory and Reed now have reason to block Cassidy’s agenda, as does Lee, who campaign closely with Reed even though they ran in separate races.
If Cassidy cares to be a two-term mayor or simply sheds interest in running for re-election like he did in 2008 as a school board trustee following a very similar run of bullying and ineffectiveness, he will have to change not only his ways, but his politics. There are already signs Cassidy is willing to move left on some issues, namely medical marijuana dispensaries. He raised some eyebrows last month when he offered a council resolution against Proposition 32 and showed willingness to open the city’s purse strings to keep San Leandro Hospital open for three years to the tune of $3 million.
If something doesn’t change soon, the city faces more than a City Council plagued with ineffectiveness and infighting but one unable to effectively provide services to its residents. San Leandro City Hall is not known to be the best working environment among East Bay talent searching for work. Morale is extremely low from the policies and rhetoric flowing from Cassidy’s mouth. Not only is a brain drain occurring at City Hall handcuffing the ability of the city manager to apply his vision for the city, but quality managers and underlings are leaving San Leandro not for greater riches, but to neighboring cities, in most cases, in lateral moves without much increase in pay.
This is the city where a bright, young finance director, just seven months on the job, eschewed the relatively stable budget situation in San Leandro for the same job in Hayward to deal with a $20 million financial mess. That’s like saying a shittier job elsewhere is way better than the shitty job I have now.