By Steven Tavares

It wasn’t anything Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak said that lead the San Leandro Police Officers Association to split their endorsement for mayor between her and Mayor Tony Santos, it was a statement against their challenger, Stephen Cassidy, said the police union president.

“He is not a friend of the POA,” Sgt. Mike Sobek, president of the SLPOA said of Cassidy.

The reason for the surprise dual endorsement after the union initially announced its full backing for Starosciak last month came from two factors, said Sobek. “The board, at the time, thought Joyce did better at answering our questions,” he said, in addition to unknown factors stemming from the city’s use of a new election system “With ranked choice voting, we felt the public needed to know there were two good candidates out there,” Sobek said, who admits nobody quite knows how the intricacies of RCV will play out.

He was unequivocal, though, in saying the dual endorsement was anti-Cassidy. The candidate’s consistent stance calling for reform of city employee pension and opposition to Measure Z has rankled city employees. The city says the proposed sales tax increase to 10 percent will reinstate city jobs, especially at the police department.

“He wants to balance the budget on the backs of city employees,” said Sobek. “He’s taking lessons straight from the playbook of Meg Whitman.” Santos has also criticized Cassidy’s ideas as right-leaning in the past as did Starosciak last week during their second candidates forum. “That man makes a ton of money and he’s talking about working people paying their share,” Sobek said of Cassidy’s occupation as a consumer attorney.

Cassidy said Tuesday that he agrees with Sobek in support of bringing the police force to full-strength. “Where we disagree,” said Cassidy, “is solely on the issue of whether San Leandro can continue to afford to pay 100 percent the cost of its employee pensions.” Cassidy called for the police department to join other cities and agencies like the Alameda County sheriffs and firefighters, along with police officers in San Francisco in contributing annually to the cost of their pensions. “Otherwise,” said Cassidy, “we will see continued reductions in our police force and San Leandro could join Vallejo in declaring bankruptcy, placing the safety of our community at risk.”

Despite the police union’s comments on Cassidy, numerous sources last week told The Citizen the group had become increasingly disenchanted with a few of Starosciak’s public comments in the weeks after receiving their endorsement. At a Sept. 8 forum, Cassidy called out Starosciak for comments vaguely critical of city employee pensions. Cassidy told the audience her answer that night were in opposition of comments she gave days before to the Alameda County Central Labor Committee.

“We can also hold our employees accountable for their good pensions,” she said that night. “It’s important to remember: good pay should equal good results,” She also called for the unions to make concessions regarding their pension during collective bargaining, which two city employee unions had already agreed to earlier this year. Starosciak also raised eyebrows during at Sept. 21 city council meeting when she grilled representatives from the Alameda County Fire Department and city police over funding for the increased interoperatibility of emergency radios.

The SLPOA’s rebuke of Cassidy follows an equally stern criticism of Cassidy’s handling of the now-fired school superintendent Christine Lim last week from Starosciak leading some to believe the former school trustee’s quixotic run for mayor is gaining support with a month until election day.