Want to fix San Leandro? Run!

Are you, like me, unhappy about the idiotic decision the San Leandro City Council made in renewing the contract with Redflex, the red-light camera company, for eight years?  Do you wonder how we got into that whole pensions mess that risks bankrupting the city?  Are you angry that the City pays its law firm over $1 .2Million a year but cut down on swimming pool and library hours and did away with the Cherry Festival and the Christmas Tree lighting?  Well, you have no one but yourself to blame.  YOU are the one who voted for this Council.  It’s YOUR fault.

Ok, that’s sort of unfair.  I voted for them too.  Truth we told, we didn’t have a choice.  Most of members of the City Council ran unopposed or faced opponents with even fewer qualifications than themselves.  We voted, in many instances,  for the lesser of two evils – but a lesser evil is still an evil.

Ask anyone who follows San Leandro city politics closely and they’ll tell you the biggest problem is finding competent candidates.  Running for office (if you get a serious, even if incompetent, opponent) can be expensive and time consuming, there are few perks to being a Council Member and, if you take your role seriously, it’s a lot of work.   Unless you need an extra $1200 a month or have political aspirations, the only reason to do it is to help your community – and lets be honest, most of us are not that civic minded.  But without that civic mindedness we end up where we are.  So really, take on the challenge – run for office!

The next City Council elections will be in November 2012.   The seat for District 4, which mostly includes Washington Manor, will be up for grabs as Starosciak will be termed out.  Prola (District 6, the Marina) and Reed (District 2, southeast San Leandro) will face re-election.   To run for a city council seat you must live within the borders of the district you are running for (look at the map) – so if you don’t live in those areas you’ll have to wait until 2014 (when Gregory from District 1 and Souza from District 3 will be termed out, Cutter from District 5 will probably run for re-election).

I’ll be honest with you: running for City Council is not going to be easy.  In District 6, Jim Prola is virtually indestructible.  Not only does he come with all the strength of organized labor behind him, but he’s a tireless campaigner.  He’ll walk every street of San Leandro during the campaign – twice – and will have fun doing it.   Ursula Reed, on the other hand, is more vulnerable.  While defeating an incumbent in San Leandro is very hard (Michael Gregory, for example, easily got 65% of the votes in the last election), it’s not impossible as Cassidy’s defeat over incumbent Mayor Santos showed.  Reed ran a very good campaign in 2008, but it was against an opponent who relied on her name recognition alone and did not campaign.   Reed received a lot of support from part of the progressive community in 2008 that may no longer be there in 2012.  I think that a progressive candidate that could create a good grassroot campaign would be able to defeat her.

The District 4 Washington Manor seat, however, is wide open.  There have been whispers about a couple of people running for that seat but nobody has announced as of yet and none of the potential candidates are well know.  If you live in the Manor, you are smart, competent, willing to do a lot of work and make sound decisions – and preferably (for me) progressive, you should seriously consider running.

The Alameda County Democratic Party will be holding a “running for office” workshop on May 14, 2011, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m at  UFCW Local 5 in Hayward.  This would be a great place for you to start if you are intrigued by the notion of a 2012 City Council run.  For more information e-mail  info@acdems.org or call 510.537.6390.

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7 Comments on “Want to fix San Leandro? Run!”

  1. Craig Williams says:

    I hope Prola didn’t say he canvassed the whole city . It would take at least a year. He could have canvassed half his district in maybe 3 months if he went door to door for 4 hours a night 5 nights a week.Prola had very weak opponents and a very good phone banking effort with people calling from the labor council as well as Sacramento.
    Heidi Finberg is in his district living on a boat at the Marina . She might be a serious opponent for him. Prior to becoming the head of the Chamber of Commerce she launched a campaign for the 5th district.When she got the Chamber job , she dropped out of the race and Bill Stephens replaced her as the conservative candidate.
    A serious run is a serious personal financial investment unless you don’t have a competitive race or have serious labor or Chamber support.
    My suggestion for campaign finance reform would be to have district elections where you wouldn’t have to run city wide. Labor, the Democratic Party and the Chamber I imagine oppose this reform since it would make it easier for a independent candidate to wage a serious , managable grassroots campaign.This in my opinion would be a major local progressive change.

  2. I wasn’t quoting Prola, and perhaps I was exaggerating a bit, but he walks A LOT. And he’s AMAZINGLY effective. When he walked for one of our candidates, he got more people to take signs one day that the rest of the team did in a week.
    I think Fingerg moved to Alameda, isn’t that where her boat is?
    I don’t think running for office needs to cost the candidate much money of their own. I don’t think Reed put much, for example, though I’d have to go look at her financial forms to see. Cassidy put a lot, but got it all back after he won.
    The problem with district elections is that they encourage City Council candidates to be unresponsive to everyone but members of their district. Why would someone from District 4 give a damn about the city’s relationship with the school district, for example, when all her voters are in a different district?

  3. Craig Williams says:

    Well we would hope that if someone ran for office in a Congressional District that they would try to represent what is good for everyone or everyone who supports their political perspective.Imagine runny country wide for congress. This idea of thinking only about people in your district is the excuse they throw up against district elections all the time. Historically in other cities, progressive coalitions have fought for district elections because it brings the expense of campaigning and dependence on the party or interest groups down.I could never imagine a conservative business group ever promoting district elections.
    Prola may have learned his sign skills from Johan Klehs. I say that because I walked for Prola and before going out on the doors one morning everyone was wondering how Klehs got out so many signs for Prola and he said he asked everyone to take a sign. He said he even got out several signs to undecided voters saying “well if you are still undecided can you for now let us put up a sign in your yard,” to which people said “yes.”Which to me is pretty funny.
    Cassidy by the way , if you based it on signs was clearly the candidate of the Republican Party.
    The three advantages of district elections are its better for grassroots campaigns, it encourages people to run because its cheaper and it engages voters better because door to door contact is more possible.
    I’m sure the “good old girl network” in the party would be against it because a small group of people who most party members don’t know from a “hole in the ground” can endorse a candidate and give party members the impression that it was some sort of democratic process.
    Ultimately the candidate centered process is a conservative style of politics. Labor would not be in the deep doo doo they are in if they put more money into organizing working people instead of using they campaign money and muscle to gain “access.” Labor is however very efficient with organizing their own members.They spend 1/10 what the Chamber of Commerce spends, nationally and do a fairly good grassroots effort. You would think that would tell the Democrats something.
    But ultimately we are not so free a country. Most people are reluctant to get into politics beyond elections because they don’t have Just Cause at work and fear they might lose their jobs. Imagine someone going to a fair taxation rally when their boss is vehemently against it or wearing an Obama T shirt to work with a Tea Party foreman?That would be living dangerously , maybe even with Just Cause.
    Once people are elected they very much like the way things work because it worked for them.

    • Craig, if you could guarantee me a better crop of candidates, people who are are actually committed to improving San Leandro, I would be more willing to look at district elections. But with the people we’ve gotten so far? No way. I really don’t think the problem is so much finding people who want to run, as people who want to serve. Last year nobody run for Hague’s school board seat – and only two people applied to be appointed.

      • Craig Williams says:

        That shows the poverty of politics, the way its now done. Twenty five percent of the population are college educated so many of those people would be pretty good elected officials as well as a lot of non college educated people,
        As a progressive I have faith in people and democracy.
        The Democrats don’t even want to communicate with their members unless its election time. I wrote a resolution which passed with flying colors at both the DNC and California Democratic Party on local party building but it was ardently opposed locally by Democratic Party leaders, It called for doing community organizing and using the Internet , something which was strongly opposed by some local elected officials and party leaders.They could have called their efforts” the daylight is dangerous coalition.”
        After realizing that it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on ,I had the support of activist leaders in the state for a resolution to use 5 percent of funds raised by Assembly, Senate and statewide candidates in primaries for developing local party organizations. That was sabotaged by party staff and pulled from the agenda although other staff felt it was very timely.
        In community organizing a focus is placed on what’s called “leadership development.”If the local party organizations were more authentic , this would happen through these local party organizations.

  4. Craig Williams says:

    Someone emailed me about another topic but mentioned that only 5 people showed up for the Democratic Party training . The system needs an overhaul. People either are wealthy or have special interest support or shell out money they can’t afford and shouldn’t have to spend. With over 25 percent of the population going to college ,people are smart enough and don’t want to run under the status quo.Figuring the worksop covered half of the county that’s about 5 out of a million or by party 1 in 50,000 Democrats.


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