New Vice Mayor Jim Prola

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | San Leandro Councilmember Jim Prola was appointed vice mayor this week. The motion was made without discussion and passed, 4-3. Then there was a pause.

Councilmembers detailed their mostly mundane past two weeks. Councilmember Michael Gregory rode his bike with the mayor. Prola attended every event in the county and Pauline Cutter said something akin to thinking out loud, then came Councilmember Diana Souza’s turn to speak.

“Many of you know I have not been vice mayor,” said a sorrowful Souza. “I would have embraced the opportunity to be vice mayor and, yes, I am disappointed that I did not have the support of my colleagues.”

Nearing the end of her second term on the City Council, Souza had never been elected by her peers to serve the entirely ceremonially title of vice mayor. Along with Souza, Councilmembers Ursula Reed and Benny Lee also voted against Prola’s appointment, all without any acrimony towards the victor.

However, it was clear Souza was hurt by the snub, even alluding to apparent horse trading that may have occurred during the run-up to Monday’s quick vote. To win the appointment, Souza said, she would have had to “compromise my values and integrity that got me elected and some would say, ‘that is just politics’ and I say, ‘that is not my politics.’”

She went on to criticize the current council environment for producing “conformity rather collaboration.” The latter point holds some truth. Over the past few years, the San Leandro City Council has shown a propensity for middling city-wide discussions and leaders who almost always lead from the back rather than the front.

Prola, also in his second term on the council, had been similarly passed over for vice mayor the last two years before getting the nod this week.

The council’s decision is also a slight blow to Souza’s potential run next year for mayor against Stephen Cassidy. Even if Souza was successful Monday night, the term for vice mayor only extends one year, leaving a roughly six month space before the November 2014 election.

However, as stated before, the campaign season starts now and the title of vice mayor to the layperson carries an air of importance, even though now-former Vice Mayor Gregory once labeled the job’s sole duty as making certain the candy dishes on the council member dais is filled.