Cassidy’s Reputation Catches Up To Him

By Steven Tavares

News of Saturday’s controversial school fair at Roosevelt Elementary has created a stir in the city unrivaled during this quite raucous campaign season. Eyebrows were raised over the perception the event was tinged with political overtones earlier in the week when a flyer began circulating around city insiders. The fact there is video of both Stephen Cassidy and School Board President Mike Katz resplendent in campaign t-shirts and shorts points to the fact opponents were ready to pounce on the opportunity and got more than they expected.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your opportunity to be the first to dunk the next mayor of San Leandro, Stephen Cassidy,” said a man believed to be part of the school’s PTA through a bullhorn. Video of Cassidy’s dunking in a water tank picks up a voice in the background introducing Cassidy along with his political aspirations, “He used to be on the school board, but that wasn’t big enough for his ego, so now he’s running for mayor.”

Two people in attendance Saturday told The Citizen they felt uncomfortable with the mixing of campaigning with a school event organized to raise money for students and called it “inappropriate.” Cassidy’s past in threading a fine line between politics and the school district has now been detailed, but it is no coincidence he lives and dies by his support from parents and teachers. Most of Cassidy’s strength comes from the school district, so much so that insiders often say he appears to be running for the non-existent title of “mayor of the school board.” That strength, though, is blunted by a small, but significant group of parents, notably Asian-Americans, who loathe Cassidy, Katz and anyone deemed with a hand in deposing former school superintendent Christine Lim.

To further their ire, to date, there has never been a precise accounting of the reasons for Lim’s dismissal last January from Cassidy, Katz or the San Leandro Teachers’ Association. In fact, a code of silence blankets any discussion of Lim or Cassidy’s notably tumultuous time on the school board. Past colleagues of Cassidy routinely spoke on background criticizing his tense, oftentimes bullying demeanor on the board up until a year ago. Afterwards, known adversaries refused to talk about Cassidy and his reputation for not playing nicely with others. Although Cassidy says he served only a single term on the school board at the urging of his wife, most believe he decided against running for re-election in 2008 after repeated failures to broker any consistent support for his ideas, aside from Katz.

The scene this past Saturday is certainly problematic for Cassidy, but the real concern in light of his opponents appetite to attack him, is how exactly will he govern with nearly the entire city (public employees, labor unions, councilmembers and minority groups) sharpening their knives to be first to take him down?