Santos Describes Gloom, Few Solutions


The Citizen 

Good Times, Bad Times, you know I had my share;
When my woman left home for a brown eyed man,
Well, I still don’t seem to care. –Led Zeppelin

STATE OF THE CITYSan Leandro Mayor Tony Santos had very little optimism to report during Monday’s State of the City address, in fact, similar to Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker’s ominous speech last month, residents are being told to cover their eyes and hope the worst has passed.

“We are all on this ship together and it is imperative that we work together to keep San Leandro on a steady course toward recovery,” Santos said.

On occasion, Santos struck a us against Sacramento tone as he criticized “borrowing” of local receipts to cure the state’s woeful budget crisis. The state grabbed $1.8 million in receipts along with a disputed $5.1 million in redevelopment dollars, said Santos. These sobering numbers are worsened by an expected $7.3 million deficit this year along with sales tax revenues down over $5 million over the past year, according to Santos.

The mayor, who is up for re-election this November, says the city may put forth a ballot measure to increase revenues. Such a plan, has been seen as likely over the past few months and was mentioned prominently during debate over the passing of Ranked Choice Voting.

“It is quite possible that the City Council and I will need to go to the voters before this year is out and ask for help to increase city revenues,” said Santos.

He also said he realizes many voters will find it difficult to support an additional burden to their already strapped budgets saying, “We know we may have a daunting task ahead of us–to convince the voters of this town to help us raise taxes during this fiscal crisis.”

Santos said the city will have to make deeper cuts in programs, services and city staff this year and may eliminate another 30 jobs by July 1. “Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to meet your expectations until we get some new revenues and the economy turns around,” said Santos.

The mayor also described a few of the positives in the city, including the beginning of construction of Kaiser Permanente in the city and what many believe was San Leandro’s biggest success story last year, the partnership with surroinding cities in the East Bay Green Corridor movement that hopes to attract green energy companies to the area. The city will also attempt to cut emissions by 25 percent by 2020, he said. Construction in San Leandro is also up, according to Santos, who said 11 projects have poured over $127 million in investments into San Leandro, but many of those were funded during more stable economic times.

Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak, who is running for mayor, called Santos’ speech “on mark,” regarding the state of the city, but said images of visible construction around town are deceiving. Starosciak noted in November that the city was in “decay” to which the mayor gave a nearly 10 minute-long speech during a city council meeting to respond.

“We have a lot of construction going on and that looks like advancement, but the downside of what we have is that operations are in decline. It impacts the day-to-day feeling in the city. It’s the graffiti cleaned up slower and libraries closed longer than they are open,” said Starosciak.

She also believes residents will be more in-tuned with near-certain cuts to popular programs and further reductions in city services. “There is going to be some difficult decisions to be made,” she said.

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