Sweeney Calls for Hayward to Raise Its Expectations

By Steven Tavares

Change comes to Hayward City Council Tuesday night with the waning moments of outgoing members Anna May and Kevin Dowling on the dais seated fifth and sixth from the left.

The city of Hayward has taken some hits to its pride recently. Crime is up and a rising number of homicides have taken a toll on the community’s sense of safety. The label of being the county’s most underperforming school district has also exacted a noticeable loss of prestige. Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney hopes his city is entering a new beginning of sorts as he was sworn-in Tuesday night for a second term and welcomed two new councilmembers.

Sweeney, who ran unopposed last June, delivered a rousing and inspirational address to an overflow crowd at City Hall. The former state assemblyman called for the city to “raise expectations” at every level from students to principals all the way up to his own office. “We need to stop making excuses for our kids,” said Sweeney.

He also called talk of the city’s underperforming schools “uncomfortable” but said all residents regardless of whether or not they have school-age children have a philosophical and financial interest in improving the school district. “We all have a stake in our schools,” said Sweeney.

The council also welcomed two new members to its rank. Marvin Peixoto and Mark Salinas were sworn-in replacing Anna May and Kevin Dowling, both of whom did not seek re-election.
Salinas said he will attempt to engage community leaders who, for whatever reason, have not participated in local government. He said he is not the first Latino to ever serve on the council, but first in another regard. “I am the first Latino [on the council] born, raised and educated in Hayward,” he said to wild applause. Salinas became emotion when he spoke of his father and sister, both of whom have passed, while recalling their interest in discussing the political discourse of the day.

Peixoto, who was the top vote-getter in last June’s election, in contrast to Salinas’ soulful speech, unveiled his goals for the next four years. Peixoto gave forceful hints to his belief in hastening Hayward’s economic growth in the future. “We are going to demand more from our precious resources than ever before,” he said. “With growth comes responsibility,” Peixoto said and declared his realization increased demand for services will also follow.

It remains to be seen whether the council’s two newest members will cause any noticeable change in its ideological makeup. Peixoto seems likely to take the mantle of May who was seen as a conservative, pro-business councilmember, while Salinas’ comments relating to community outreach mimicked the beliefs of Dowling. Coincidentally, they both Salinas and Dowling graduated from the same high school.

Dowling leaves a 12-year legacy on the council . Sweeney called him a “great advocate for the youth” and lauded his work in increasing Hayward’s shopping experience. “You have left a legacy from some of the things you have brought,” said Councilwoman Barbara Halliday.

Dowling credited among his accomplishments the retail improvements to Foothill Boulevard, the building of Stonebrae TPC and the construction of the Interstate 880/Highway 92 interchange without significant change to those living in the nearby neighborhood. He also offered the new members of the council some advice culled from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “Get along. Get things done.”

With the exit of May, the council loses one of its most ardent business leaders along with one of its most colorful politicians. May chose to not seek re-election after fulfilling her two years on the council. She has indicated strong interest in running for a seat on Hayward’s downtrodden school board, but says such a move under the cloud of state receivership may be counterproductive. If she indeed runs, former city manager Greg Jones will likely join her on the ballot. The two caused months of speculation and gossip over their romance while he ran the city last year. The two are now engaged. Tuesday night, May made reference to Jones by thanking the city for “the greatest gifts of my life.”

Sweeney thanked May for being a staunch supporter of the city alluding to her involvement in enticing film companies to use Hayward as a backdrop for commercials. She called herself a “pest” and urged the council to keep its focus squarely on the city.

The council also elected Councilman Francisco Zermeno to become the next mayor pro tempore. Zermeno, the only remaining member to have not held the position similar to vice mayor in other cities, replaces Councilman Olden Henson for the next year.