San Leandro Teacher is Arrested – Good for Him!

This post has moved. You can now find it at: http://sanleandrotalk.voxpublica.org/2011/05/05/san-leandro-teacher-is-arrested-good-for-him/

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Come pray at the Senior Center!

I pride myself on being San Leandro’s most infamous atheist.  I came into local prominence a couple of years ago when I challenged the San Leandro School District to stop teaching overtly religious songs in school.  I had been appalled to find out that McKinley Elementary School‘s evangelical Christian music teacher, Kathy Maier, had made my 6-year old learn and sing the song “Silent Night” which praises Jesus as God.  Not kosher in my book. So when I read a letter on last Thursday’s San Leandro Times accusing the city of establishing religion by allowing the Calvary Chapel church/religious group to hold services at the newly opened Senior Center, I had to investigate what was going on.  And apparently it’s much ado about nothing.

Calvary Chapel is a small religious group started/run by the Cortez family, who relocated their ministry to San Leandro  from the city of Guadalupe in late 2009.  They are fundamentalist neo-Pentecostals (competition for Faith Fellowship?) but they don’t seem to make too big a deal out of speaking in tongues.  They’ve been meeting at the Marina Community Center since they started, and apparently now they are moving to the Senior Center. I don’t know if that’s because the Senior Center is more centrally located or if they were able to see the signs predicting the end of the Marina center.

Meeting rooms at the Marina and Senior Centers are available for rental by any member of the community.  Non-profit groups, apparently including churches, are charged reduced non-profit rates during non-peak hours and regular rates during the peak hours that Calvary Chapel mostly reserves.  Any group is allowed to use these facilities, provided they pay the appropriate fees & deposit, have insurance  and don’t have a history of trashing the facilities.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with that.  I don’t really want the government to have to inquire as to what every group who rents a room at a public building is going to do in the room.   Whether a group of people want a room to hold masturbation workshops,  have a Barbie convention or pray to imaginary cosmic entities, it’s really nobody’s business but their own.

The fees that Calvary Chapel pays the city for the use of its facilities, moreover, help tremendously in keeping the Senior Center open.  And who can complain about that?


The Librarian is watching you… but not while you surf.

Last Thursday’s San Leandro Times included a number of interesting letters from local citizens.   One that particularly caught my eye was sent by Leo West and concerned the use of monitoring software on the networked computers at the library.  According to the letter, “any librarian can log in and watch what any computer-user is watching – contacts, contents of materials received or sent, websites used, everything”.

I talked to the library about this issue and I was told that the software in question has been installed so the city’s IT department (the library does not have its own) can troubleshoot computer problems over the network, from their home base at city hall.   Librarians themselves can only access the software for very limited purposes (like extending the time a patron can use the computer).  IT staff will access the software when a patron reports a problem, so the patron will be aware of what the staff is doing.

No records are kept of patron’s computer sessions.

Personally, I’m not overly concerned about the library staff or the IT staff at city hall watching over my shoulders (in particular after 5 PM, I very much doubt anyone is left over at City Hall after working hours) – but this tool potentially could be misused.  That’s just as true of a pencil, however.


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.


San Leandro Patch: (Unpaid) Bloggers Wanted

This posting (and blog) has moved. You can now find it at: http://sanleandrotalk.voxpublica.org/2011/04/26/san-leandro-patch-unpaid-bloggers-wanted/


Jim Prola is a busy man and has a good sense of humor…

Councilman Jim Prola seems to get around a lot – from mosquito abatement meetings to water plants.  At the end of each City Council meeting, Council members recount the public meetings and events they attended in the previous fortnight.  Here is Prola’s account from the April 4th meeting:

Listen to Audio

(If you don’t get it, this reference may help you)



Cassidy asks San Leandrans input on new City Manager – sort of…

New San Leandro City ManagerSan Leandro is about to appoint a new City Manager to lead the city, hopefully effectively and for many years to come.  An ad hoc committee composed by Mayor Stephen Cassidy and Council members Reed and Souza narrowed the field of applicants from 30 to five.  The Council won’t disclose their identities – ostensibly to protect the applicants’ current  jobs – though hopefully demographic information on them will be forthcoming.  Cassidy has not heeded my suggestion that he appoint a citizens ad hoc committee to give input on who among these candidates would work best for the city, but he is soliciting the community’s opinion albeit in a very limited manner.

For one, he set up an online questionnaire asking very general questions as to what San Leandrans want in a city manager. Cassidy has not explained how the information from these questionnaires will be put to use, however.

Cassidy will also be holding a Town Hall meeting (Sat., April 30, 9-11 a.m. Lecture Hall at Main Library) for citizen’s to provide their input on this issue.  For that input to be useful, however, it is essential that the citizens attending be asked real questions concerning the particular characteristics of the five final candidates.  For example, it would be of little use of citizens to tell the Mayor that they want a Latino or Asian city manager, if none of the five final candidates are of such ethnic origin.  Similarly, if none of the candidates live or are willing to live in San Leandro, it won’t help the Mayor at this point to hear how important this issue is to the community.   It is thus essential that Cassidy and his fellow Council members take a careful look at the characteristics of these five candidates and then ask the community specific questions about what qualities about them they would find more compelling.  Would we rather have someone with more experience or with a commitment to stay in San Leandro for longer?  Do we want someone who has worked in City government all his life, or would we prefer her to have business or non-profit experience?  Do we want someone who is known for their financial skills – given our dismal budget situation – or someone with superior management skills?  Only people with access to the candidates will know what the right questions to ask are.

The five candidates won’t be interviewed by the City Council until after the Town Hall meeting, so this is also a good opportunity for Cassidy to solicit community input about what sort of questions we want Cassidy to put to the candidates – and what types of answers would make us happiest.  I will personally not be able to be at this Town Hall – it conflicts with the California Democrats Convention – but I hope that many people will attend, that the discussion will be relevant and useful and that the City Council will take the input it generates seriously.