San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Mar. 28, at the annual State of the City address.

PHOTO/Shane Bond

SAN LEANDRO | San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s State of the City Address departed from last year’s grim outlook for the city and made an effort to focus on positive aspects of the city’s developments with Lit San Leandro and Net Zero Energy Center and a consistent touting of the recent Police Officers Association labor agreement.

The address soundly largely like a public relations oration to help build a positive aura around a city that just last year the mayor said was facing bleak economic issues and pension costs that Cassidy was sternly determined to reduce by making employees pay more into their pensions.

Unlike last time though, this city address was not held at City Hall during a council meeting and no one was able to make public comments. Instead, it was hosted at the sleek Senior Community Center on East 14th Street and co-sponsored by companies partnered with the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce as well as OSISoft, who run Lit San Leandro’s fiber optic loop that the city has been praising as a huge potential contributor to bringing high-tech manufacturing and economic vitalization to town.

Cassidy noted the Police Officers Association deal brokered with the city concerning pension costs. “I commend the Police Officers Association with working on this new agreement for public safety and fiscal responsibility,” said Cassidy. The deal established an incremental increase in contribution by officers into their pension by 3 percent over the next three years topping off at a 9 percent which is down from Cassidy’s preferred 10 percent that he campaigned on when he ran for mayor. Despite not being what Cassidy has originally campaigned on, the Mayor praised the deal as evidence that the city was able to tackle an issue that he cited with churlish detail at last year’s state of the city address.

Cassidy praised, as he did a year ago, the Lit San Leandro fiber optic loop. The fiber optic loop has gained national attention for its incredibly high speeds of data transfer the city hopes will attract business. The project has been funded by OSISoft which is headed by San Leandro resident Patrick Kennedy and offered 10 percent of its use for city offices in return for use of the city’s conduit to lay lines down. The company’s corporate investment into the loop has opened up opportunities that the city thinks it can capitalize on and has fervently been speaking highly of it since 2011. Cassidy also thanked Rep. Barbara Lee who helped the city receive a $2.1 million grant to help expand the fiber optic loop last year. The mayor also spoke of the Zero Net Energy building, a first of its kind, that produces as much energy as the building will consume and will be used as a training center by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595 Union.

But despite Cassidy’s attempt to stay upbeat this year he did slump into negative issues that the city faces in the middle of his speech. He went from speaking about brokering a deal with the pension issue with officers to dealing with the expensive costs the city maintains with the county’s firefighters department. According to the Mayor, health costs for the firefighters has increased the costs of maintaining a relationship with the county fire department with an unfunded liability standing at $18.5 million. Cassidy and the council have already begun to discuss this issue at a work session meeting earlier this year where Cassidy talked about drawing down the use of fire fighters in situations that otherwise a team of paramedics could do on their own in order to save cost,“We must learn to do more with less,” said Cassidy at the time.

Deteriorating streets also marked a low point in the mayor’s speech when he dwelled on budget cuts that made managing the city’s streets a greater difficulty. Measure B1, Cassidy said, would have helped to renovate the streets that otherwise will fall into further disrepair without immediate attention. The quality of the streets, measured by a pavement condition index, is down from a high of 64 percent in 2004 to 54 percent today. The Mayor proposed putting a local tax measure or a bond measure on the ballot for next year to help the roads. In the meantime, Cassidy said, there is a $6.6 million project “cobbled together” from grants to renovate the boulevard.

Also, the mayor noted a public safety update this year from Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli on the sharp increase in burglaries since January in San Leandro. Cassidy attributed the rise up in part to prison realignment that has released prisoners ahead of time. “In response to the burglaries our police have ramped up walking neighborhoods to educate people on public safety,” said Cassidy, “we are committed to truly exceptional public safety services and our police are committed to enhancing and committing to community relationships.” Cassidy also noted the end of a federal grant to fund five police officers that now must be shouldered by the general fund.

Cassidy made sure to end on a positive note by reiterating Lit San Leandro and retaining Macy’s at Bayfair Mall. Sources have told The Citizen that they pushed Cassidy to focus mainly on a positive message this year to sell the city to interested onlookers, as opposed to year’s address, sources say, was more gloomy.