RCV May Aid Incumbent Mayor in the Fall

Santos Gets Five Extra Months to Rake in the Dough | ‘R’ Still Comes Before ‘S’ | Captain Save-A-Country

Supporters of Ranked Choice Voting from the left-leaning New America Foundation had the ear of both Mayor Tony Santos and Councilman Jim Prola from the beginning. Both gave passionate speeches in favor and seemed relieved by its passing Tuesday night. Santos even had New America’s director, Steven Hill, in his hotel room in the nation’s capitol as Tuesday night’s meeting headed towards two in the morning Eastern time. Santos’ arguments seemed desperate at times. Making like a lawyer, he aimed to put doubt in every single dollar amount given by the city staff. At one point, he called them “not factual”, but focused on the premise the numbers were incorrect and bound to be cheaper than advertised rather than more expensive. Nevertheless,New America‘s talking points were clearly evident in the discussion of RCV’s benefits, namely the notion the voting system is a boon for democracy by increasing voter turnout and making it cheaper for more citizens to run for office. Lost in the argument which mainly focused on the larger one-time costs of RCV to the city is the fact plurality voting in November would have also decided races with a larger number of voters. Ah, but the city’s voters changed the charter in 2000 to 50 percent plus one to decide its leaders. As has been written her before, the impetus for that change was the so-called “Corbett Rule” when the current state senator won the mayor’s office in 1994 with far less than a majority in a crowded field of candidates. One long-time watcher of politics in San Leandro said, “They old guard in San Leandro didn’t like a woman in the mayor’s office,” which leads to one of Santos’ main points Tuesday night about the 2000 change to the city’s charter. He said 63 percent of San Leandrans had already approved RCV with that vote. The measure, two people involved in that election say, mentions the approval of some form of RCV if it becomes available, but the impetus for the measure was about gaining a majority vote to win office, not RCV which is currently its nascent stages and was barely a blip on election reform in 2000. In December, Councilwoman Diana Souza also scoffed at Santos’ argument during a city council meeting last December.

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EITHER WAY, YOU GOT TO PAY TO PLAY On the campaign fundraiser side of RCV, the benefits of lower costs for interested candidates might not translate, at least, not this year. The decision of mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy to back RCV is an interesting look into his campaign’s psyche. His Hobson’s Choice amounts to, do I save money by running for one election, instead of hopefully two under the runoff system—he is likely the candidate with the least access to campaign donations—or take a minor hit to his oft-quoted talking point of imminent bankruptcy for the city if budget constraint is not instituted. Cassidy made it clear Tuesday he figures his best chance to unseat Santos is to gather momentum to November saying RCV is “best for democracy.” There’s one problem in the cost savings of one election over possibly two; it may give Santos five extra months to add to already sizable fundraising advantage. The mayor is having a second fundraiser Jan. 26. Santos has labor, name recognition and the Democratic Party behind him. It may have been in Cassidy’s favor to take two shots at Santos rather than an all-or-nothing strategy to slay the incumbent. In the end, the whole single election argument may be moot in 2010. People close to the Santos campaign have told The Citizen, the mayor would have won 50 percent of the vote in a June primary, making a runoff in November unnecessary.
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CLOSER THAN IT LOOKED The San Leandro City Council’s vote to approve RCV starting this November was far closer than the 5-2 tally would suggest. Since Santos participated in Tuesday’s meeting by teleconference from Washington, D.C., the council voted alphabetically by roll call instead of electronically as they normally do. Councilwoman Ursula Reed, who most viewed was the swing vote, sided with RCV after questioning whether the city was gravitating towards a revenue-enhancement measure in June or November. Of Course, Reed comes before Souza, alphabetically. Did Souza switch her vote on RCV after Reed’s vote had already clinched its passing? Of all the councilmembers, Souza was the most skeptical about the mechanics of RCV in addition to the addition costs to the city. Nonetheless, After coming out on the minority side of the vote, Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak looked obviously peeved at the outcome of the vote as she sat in Santos’ seat while he was out of town. The loss may not sting Starosciak politically, though. She can always maintain she was against RCV for budgetary reasons when or if the city’s budget continues to fall on its face.
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PATTING YOURSELF ON THE BACK From the “Just Saying Department.” The amount of effort from private citizens to help with relief effort in Haiti by donating money and goods has been extraordinary, but when it comes to corporations a bit of cynicism sometimes creeps in the mind. This week, Sutter Health donated $1.25 million to the effort through Doctors Without Borders and San Leandro’s MedShare. Undeniably generous, but one can’t help but think the inclusion of the local company medical supply company was a stroke of public relations genius. Santos, who many criticize for being too cozy to Sutter in his public comments, visited the local warehouse and lauded the company has something he was proud to have in his city. Sutter is even sending its chief medical officer for the East Bay to Haiti. The embattled hospital provider could certainly use positive news coverage after being hammered for controversies with attempts to close hospitals in San Francisco and, of course, San Leandro Hospital. Incidentally, one of the arguments against closing the hospital from supporters is the possibility of an epic earthquake on the scale of the 7.0 temblor in Haiti rattling the Hayward Fault….I won’t finish this sentence for the sake of jinxing us, but hopefully that is not what it takes to keep San Leandro Hospital open. -S.T.

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