Early To Bed, Early To Avoid Transparency?

SAN LEANDRO
Dec. 29, 2011 | When the wheels of government roll in San Leandro, it is increasingly being fueled by multiple cups of early morning coffee.

Since San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy also holds a full-time job as a consumer lawyer in San Francisco, the city has been forced to schedule committee and public meetings in the early morning hours throughout the year and, recently, on weekends, including Sunday.

The City Council met at 8:30 a.m. on consecutive Sundays this month to discuss the hiring of a new city manager.

Some council members grumbled earlier this year when council committees including Cassidy were scheduled for odd times like 8:15 in the morning to accomodate the mayor.

Cassidy’s periodic “Coffee with the Mayor” events, a holdover from the previous mayor’s tenure, have also commenced in the early morning hours, mostly during the work week. The discussion are not highly attended and tend to skew sharply to older San Leandro residents.

The mayor’s busy personal schedule has also met concern from a growing number of community members who fault Cassidy for not keeping a consistent office schedule. In fact, it is rare to catch Cassidy in the mayor’s office anytime during the day, according to a member of the city staff. He is known to pop in from time-to-time, they say, after hours to catch up on work.

Cassidy’s absenteeism over the year runs counter to vociferious calls by the then-mayoral candidate to foster greater transparency in city government. Whether call has heeded, it is happening without him and in the hands of a two lame-duck city managers. The instability along with steep staff cuts over the past few years was seen as a factor in its finance director bailing ship for Hayward after just seven months.
The complaints have grown so numerous that Cassidy held a two-hour “Office Hour” from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. earlier this month to hear resident’s concerns in a one-on-one setting.

Cassidy’s lack of accesibility (some also contend he never responds to email) is a stark change from the way the city did business under the former mayor, who was retired. Tony Santos typically spent four hours a day in his office in the late morning and early afternoon. Residents could routiunely walk in chat with Santos at their leisure.

If anything, Santos spent too much time listening to residents. As a result, he frequently entered into email wars with detractors that often found themselves forwarded to the in-boxes of many around San Leandro.

Another city staff member said Cassidy is doing things different, but added, his few appearances at City Hall is definitely a stark change from previous mayors.

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