Intriguing Council Races Shaping Up In San Leandro; Harrison For Mayor In Fremont

ELECTION ’12//SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | The appeal of running for political office in San Leandro has not exactly been robust over the past few years. Two current council members, Diana Souza and Michael Gregory, both in their second terms, have nary had viable challengers, let alone warm bodies.

With three separate seats for the City Council on the November ballot, the interests of some residents is showing encouraging signs. Councilwoman Ursula Reed will likely face a business owner from her own District 2 located on the city’s eastern border. Dan Dillman, owner of the Bal Theatre, says he will run against the incumbent, some view as the weakest member of the current council and, possibly, in the entire East Bay. However, the candidacy of the charismatic Dillman poses two significant roadblocks. In late April, an Alameda County Superior Court judge sentenced Dillman to four months in jail for battery against two undercover sheriffs deputies in front of his East 14th Street theater. Dillman is appealing the decision.

Despite what some believe, the possibility of jail time hanging over his candidacy may not be such an albatross as long as he runs a campaign critical of law enforcement. In fact, it is Dillman’s long-running feud with the city and its community development department that runs the risk of derailing any possibility of unseating Reed, who, in the past, he has called a personal friend. Nevertheless, the story of a potential councilman heading to jail even before being sworn into office will surely make local headlines.

Along the city’s western border in District 4 runs a very different situation. With Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak termed out of office, three candidates have already officially entered the race. The city’s nomination period begins July 16 and ends Aug. 10. Benny Lee, president of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association, entered the race Tuesday, according to San Leandro Patch. Darlene Daevu and former planning commissioner Chris Crow are also in the race. This race could hinge on the burgeoning hot-button issue of a single wind turbine proposed in the district on the edge of Heron Bay and near San Lorenzo Creek.

Months ago, Crow, a gregarious and opinionated 27-year-old up-and-comer in city politics, made waves when he initially showed interest in opposing Reed in District 2, where he was raised. As Reed’s appointment to the planning commission, Crow’s stated intention to run against her was found to be contemptuous by Reed and grounds for his dismissal. A raft of negative press against Reed for her action seemed to be a feather in Crow’s cap, yet he may have squandered the incident by moving to District 2 for a run at Starosciak’s open seat. Crow is also connected to Dillman’s fight with the city over the Bal Theatre and often times appeared to be his consigliere on the issue. It is expected Crow and Dillman will share time and resources this fall.

The inclusion of Daevu, also a first-time, but little known candidate in the race, also poses some interesting possibilities. For now, Daevu is the only woman in any race for council. Depending on the outcomes in District 2 and 4, the council risks losing two of its four female members. Daevu is also an appointee of two city boards by Mayor Stephen Cassidy. If the past is any indication, Cassidy’s well-known boorish behavior towards colleagues normally calls for the recruitment of board and council allies. Cassidy did it at the tail end of his short stint at the San Leandro school board leading to the recruitment of current school trustees Hermy Almonte and Morgan Mack-Rose. Many expect a few pro-Cassidy supporters to throw their hat in to the ring, including the latter mentioned.

Bill Harrison

In District 6, located around the San Leandro Marina, Councilman Jim Prola is currently unopposed. As the most liberal member of the council, even a viable opponent is unlikely. One news article recently reported Prola had yet to raise funds for the fall campaign. However, Prola is well known among political consultants to be one of the cheapest and whiniest politicians to work for. The absence of a challenger for Prola’s seat, while it defies the tenets of democracy, may also conserve time and money for a run at mayor. Prola has long denied interest in the mayor’s office, but the political calculations in 2014 will undoubtedly favor a credible pro-labor candidate to run against the public employee pension-hating Cassidy. On a council that often pays mere lip service to the labor movement, Prola is, by far, the only person routinely speaking up for working people, and remember, San Leandro is still a union town.

FREMONT MAYORAL RACE Last week, the Chris Christie of Fremont, Councilman Bill Harrison announced his intention to run for mayor. The race against fellow council member Anu Natarajan should be a heavyweight clash between two respected local officials. A third intriguing potential candidate, Councilman Dominic Dutra, decided not to run last November. His announcement replete with the requisite pledge to spend more time with his family, denied the voters of Fremont the chance to witness a three-way lovefest of alms-giving to the recently deceased and beloved Mayor Bob Wasserman.

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