Councilmember Benny Lee, second from left,
is a byproduct of the new found strength in
San Leandro's Asian American populace.
The U.S. Census in 1970 infamously reported San Leandro was nearly 100 percent white—give or take a few black families that somehow infiltrated the city’s notorious redlining of homes from outsiders. Today, San Leandro’s largest demographic is not white or black, but Asian Americans, who incidentally, have recently shown a willingness to stand and be heard at City Hall.
Two years ago, Benny Lee became the city’s first Asian American council member, but his election underlined a series of seemingly innocuous events that showed the demographic had become not only more vocal than other groups in the city, but better organized. First, came a proposal by a local businessman to erect a wind turbine on his property near the predominately Asian Heron Bay housing development.
|Councilmember Pauline Cutter|
The decision further raised a furor within the Asian Americans in San Leandro who viewed the flag-raising not as a symbol of Chinese oppression, as critics had argued, but as a celebration of their culture.
|Councilmember Diana Souza|
Although Cutter attempted to act a mediator on the council during the Chinese flag fiasco, it may not matter to Asian groups in the city who tend to firmly stand against anybody viewed as too closely aligned to Cassidy. Dillman, a dark horse candidate who could greatly benefit in the ranked choice voting race with just three candidates, also leveled strong criticism against the flag-raising last year. At one point, he asserted having foreign flag flown over City Hall amounts to a military occupation.
Meanwhile, it is Souza, the two-term council member, who has steadily courted the growing Asian American demographic over the past few years. While her consistent opposition of cannabis dispensaries in San Leandro may not jibe with the entire city, it does with Asian American groups, who tend to be more socially conservative. In addition, Souza has a strong working relationship with Lee and supported the Chinese flag resolution.
And here’s another sign both Cutter and Souza see the Asian Americans as the key to victory: each requested their ballot statements include their names in Chinese characters.