After Dividing San Leandro over Fiscal Fears, Cassidy Now Exploiting Race

SAN LEANDRO | ANALYSIS | Last September, a group of Chinese Americans in San Leandro asked the city to fly the red and gold banner of their homeland at City Hall in honor of the country’s national day on Oct. 1. Initially, the request appeared perfunctory. Raise the flag in place of the San Leandro city flag, make a few speeches celebrating the city’s diversity, maybe a song or two and that would be it. However, some in San Leandro took offense to honoring a flag they strongly believe represents oppression and civil rights abuses. Mayor Stephen Cassidy added his voice to the anti-flag faction that now included Bay Area Tibetan independence activists. The City Council, though, has always been untethered from Cassidy, an often dictatorial bully who prefers leadership by blunt force rather than a sugar and honey approach and voted, 4-3, to allow the flag-raising. But, the issue was not dead. A few days later, Cassidy used powers contained in the City Charter to nullify the vote and called for an ad hoc committee to study the city’s policy on flying foreign flags at City Hall. Politically, the decision by Cassidy to allow the divisive and potentially harmful issue (to his own re-election this year) to periodically reemerge is a questionable. Cassidy’s critics quickly labeled him anti-Democratic for reversing the will of his colleagues who colored their arguments in favor with general calls for cultural unity.

As the council’s ad hoc members, Councilmembers Benny Lee, Pauline Cutter and Cassidy met over the months to hash out a compromise, the issue had lost its direct connection to whether the Chinese flag should fly in San Leandro. After all, Oct. 1 had long since passed and the ad hoc committee was seemingly designed to tackle the general act of flying any country’s flag at City Hall. Ostensibly, Cassidy’s rationale for overturning the council’s vote was to call a timeout and figure out a new play for the city. However, when the issue returned to the City Council Monday night, an entirely different rhetorical tactic was employed by Cassidy. One that strongly indicates Cassidy is aiming to replicate his corrosive campaign strategy of four years ago: Divide and conquer San Leandrans. In 2010, he aimed to pit recession-weary residents versus allusions of city employees living high off the hog. In 2014, the same theory will this time employ xenophobia and irrational fears of Red China to divide the city.

When Cassidy narrated a PowerPoint presentation Monday night laying out his position against flying foreign flags at City Hall, it likely represented his campaign kickoff speech. The presentation featured gratuitous use of images and quotes from some of history’s greatest leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi and the Dalai Lama. It was also tailored toward China and its civil rights abuses. Clearly, Cassidy’s rhetoric was designed to again stoke divisiveness against Chinese Americans in San Leandro, which, incidentally, is now the city’s largest demographic at nearly 30 percent. And to further indicate Cassidy’s real intent, as part of the ad hoc committee, he was the lone dissenting vote against a compromise presented by Cutter to construct a new flag pole at nearby Root Park reserved for foreign celebrations like the Oct. 1 Chinese national day celebration. On Monday night, Cassidy noted he would back Cutter’s proposal “for the sake of compromise,” but the motion was never offered for consideration. In fact, after the City Council voted, 4-3, Monday night to support the existing policy allowing the mayor to make the call on future flag ceremonies at City Hall, Cassidy strongly indicated he would again disallow any flags flying. It’s a line in the sand, which almost assuredly will be crossed sometime next September if the flag issue is again broached in advance of the Oct. 1 Chinese holiday. What will happen then? The same four members, Councilmembers Jim Prola, Diana Souza, Lee and Ursula Reed will vote for the flag-raising in the name of cultural comity and what will Cassidy do then? Again reverse the will of the council? And at what cost?

In the meantime, nearly every public speaker Monday night continually referenced the Chinese flag even though the proposal to fly their banner had come and went. Tibetan freedom fighters argued passionately against oppression by the Chinese government, yet one couldn’t help wondering whether the initial spark in this controversy would have never ignited if the flag initially considered was a staunch ally of the U.S., like say, Australia or even Mexico. This is the message of many of the city’s Chinese Americans are likely taking from Cassidy’s comments.

Proponents of the flag have continually argued their reasons for flying the Chinese flag is solely cultural and a manifestation of their ancestry, not the action of the Chinese government. It’s also a notion people without a direct connection to the American immigrant experience cannot fully grasp and one Cassidy is betting to exploit in the next seven months. If an American is far removed from their family’s journey to America, the idea of simultaneously pledging primary love for the United States and, secondarily, for the nation of your birth or your parent’s birth is a difficult for some to comprehend. However, this duality exists, is powerful , and poses no hindrance to how much pride you have in being American, or, one day becoming one. In fact, the notion you may not be American enough is despicable. A generation or so ago, San Leandro could have been labeled the East Bay’s capital of racism. Before 1970, the question would not have been whether you were sufficiently American, but whether you were white enough to live in San Leandro (i.e., not black). Despite a truly miraculous four decades in which the whitest city around became literally the most equally diverse city in the region, the terrible ghosts of leaders like Mayor Jack Maltester are aching from the ether to bring racial divisiveness back to San Leandro. All it needed was a simple red flag flapping in the wind.

Categories: 2014 Election, Benny Lee, Chinese flag, flag, Jack Maltester, mayor, Pauline Cutter, pensions, san leandro, san leandro city council, Stephen Cassidy

41 replies

  1. Big mistake by Cassidy, divisiveness is never good.


  2. Thank you for again calling out what Cassidy is really trying to do.


  3. This is a no win situation for everyone. My mother would have decided not to fly any flags, when in the middle of a family argument. Why can't we focus on more important issues facing the city? Like jobs, health care, seniors, pot holes for heavens sake!


  4. White house flown other Nation's flag, San Leandro flag policy is within guideline just like white house, SF, Oakland, Milpitas and etc.
    My mother would have decided to fly all flags with love and open arms.


  5. Steven Tavares, well said!!

    Very powerful on the last paragraph you stated: “If an American is far removed from their family’s journey to America, the idea of simultaneously pledging primary love for the United States and, secondarily, for the nation of your birth or your parent’s birth is difficult for some to comprehend. However, this duality exists, is powerful, and poses no hindrance to how much pride you have in being American”.


  6. Last night Cassidy had his campaign kick off in city hall meeting hoping the white sand reunited.


  7. Cassidy misleads flying other nation's flag is illegal and those have this notion are not loyal to America. Didn't Cassidy vote yes to MJ when MJ is illegal under Federal law. Bully and hypocrite.


  8. We should only fly one flag: USA
    There are not enough flag poles to fly one for every country for every nationality of residents in San Leandro. Get over it and move on to more important issues!


  9. It follows the flag protocol in our flag policy; it's as simple as that.

    Get over it and move onto more important issues like the damage control with foreign investors who are absolutely disgusted by Cassidy.


  10. The flag policy gives us freedoms to choose but putting the words “No” into it would be an act of exclusion.

    After watching the news, the city hall audio on, and reading other materials, the flag policy does allow other nation flags at San Leandro City Hall. It has been done many times and is not the first time for the Chinese flag or other flags as said by Vice Mayor Jim Prola in the meeting. The American flags stands highest with the other flags at a lower height for a few hours.

    People who oppose this don't know this history might think that the city is doing something new but it isn't. San Leandro has come a long way from excluding people of color many years ago. Our city council should not let San Leandro become exclusionary again with any policy.


  11. The Germans, Italians, and Japanese have come a long way since World War II from becoming our sworn enemies to economic trading partners. As Americans, we no longer look at them as being different.

    The Chinese have also come a long way from their communist revolution to worldwide economic trading partners. The Chinese have struggled through hard times in China and America for the past 200 years. It's sad that we still promote images to continue the struggle for Chinese Americans.


  12. Do Cassidy really care the meaning of rainbow flag? It's one of his tactics gaining votes for his re-election in 2014. He worried the outrage of PRC flag as he stated, but not worry rainbow flag and both flags are political.

    rainbow crosswalks in San Leandro would be nice, pretty colors.


  13. We have people in San Leandro say “NO” to “FREEDOM”.

    Mayor of San Leandro Stephen Cassidy openly started that “NO”.


  14. Thanks to Steven Tavares's article pointing out Cassidy's hidden agenda and giving the readers some history of San Leandro. Speechless of Cassidy's ill behavior.


  15. Feel free to request flying other nation's flag at San Leandro city hall. It's totally legal and rightful under the current flag policy. Don't let dictators tell you what you can or can't, or tell you go back to where you come from because they say so. We have fought equal rights for so many years and refuse to go backward. Don't let Cassidy and his supporters take that away from us!


  16. During our neighborhood get together last night, one of our neighbors brought out a point where Cassidy is contradicting himself. Cassidy said, “Our city doesn't get involved with other nation's government.” Yet, didn't Cassidy publically turn around on his stance to churn out anti-China sentiments and propaganda on social media as well as the city hall meeting – hasn't he already involved in overstepping the line into other nation's affairs?


  17. Flag policies are among the instruments written by governing US local and higher offices to protect our rights. Cassidy refuses to accept that. He's more interested in bullying everyone else around.


  18. Pauline Cutter, “Don't you dare tell me or dictate to us how we should honor you [your culture].”

    Who's we? People who consider themselves “real” [White] Americans?

    Cutter's horrid insensitivity to marginalized communities and people of color who are JUST AS AMERICAN AS her is appalling. This is the arrogance and insensitivity of white privilege at work. They are no less American than you. You might as well tell African Americans how they should celebrate Black History Month or Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    Just to emphasize this point further, Cassidy, Cutter and even Gregory won't even offer room on the back of their bus for the Chinese flag. Not even if it's only for ONE day, hung BELOW the American flag.

    Pauline obviously thinks she knows better than the marginalized people who actually have to put up with and live through targeted injustice. Everyday is White History day in America, so don't even get your panties twisted trying to tell other Americans to leave who don't happen to share your skin color. If you are not indigenous to the US, you have no right to tell anyone to leave. Unless you want to take your OWN unconstructive advice, and go back to Europe. You have no right to tell people of color how they should be recognized without knowing about anything they go through on a day to day basis.

    Don't be THAT xenophobic idiot.

    Her disregard of the Chinese people is a form of deep-seated ignorance that oozes through, airing the ugliest stench of racism.

    For someone who understands LITTLE TO NOTHING about the Chinese American experience or how their culture functions, she has the nerve to step in and tell Chinese people HOW they should be celebrated for contributing to this community. Cutter specifies they are NOT ALLOWED to express their culture the way they best understand. What makes her so entitled to tell people of color how they should feel?

    These people are disgusting. Cassidy and Cutter should start running for seats in Kansas or Idaho, because we have no room for their ignorant, privileged BS here.


  19. Wow, really, will watch the city council meeting audio from the city site.


  20. Yes to Freedom!


  21. I can feel the pain people of color faced during 1970 in San Leandro, having just read the SL Times letter to the editor. This letter stated “we support Chinese people to live here”…

    What the hell is that? Do Chinese Americans need your opinion to be Americans?…These Chinese Americans are lawfully holding American citizenships and are exercising their equal rights with which our flag policy is permitted. Yes, the city hall is for ALL people [tax payers].

    “…Lee is pandering to his constituency as well as HIS OWN RACE. Disregarding the protocol of public property displays the overwhelming sentiment of the residents of San Leandro does a disservice to us all.”

    George and Sherri Bond, have you actually reread what you wrote before actually sending that in?

    Not only are Chinese Americans among the most SILENT and LEAST represented groups in San Leandro, your opinion believes they should remain silent.

    Chinese Americans will no longer be mute and will no longer be pushed out as perpetual foreigners when they are American like you.

    In all the years San Leandro has existed with its population and diversity this is the FIRST Asian American councilman ever elected. How long did that take? How long did it take for struggling people of color to gain YOUR acceptance so that they no longer have to be silent under the majority? You should be ashamed.

    And secondly, protocol displayed follows flag policy and is within the law. The same way desegregation was OFFENSIVE to some Americans does not mean that we should have kept segregation around. The same way people didn't believe the Constitution extended to African Americans, you don't believe the Constitution extends to Chinese Americans.

    How long will it take before you can accept other cultures drinking at the same fountain? Do you really know what you are defending? Really think before you speak and accuse people around you of misrepresentation when your editorial is offensive with bad taste.


  22. Here goes Cassidy grand standing again. “Reversing the will of the City Council” for refusing to ban foreign flags at City Hall. Cassidy always tried to be the dictator when he was on the school board, it was always his way or the highway. Is Cassidy's middle name Hitler?

    Many times I witnessed Cassidy's rude and sexist treatment of former Superintendent Christine Lim. I saw how he disrespected her and I loved when she would stand up to him. Which ended up costing Ms. Lim her job. I believe Ms. Lim was Chinese. First her and now the Chinese flag. Cassidy sounds like a racist to me. Be careful Councilmember Benny Lee, Cassidy will be coming after you next.

    Cassidy needs to be reminded he doesn't own city hall and he is only one vote. Time to vote his butt out and get a new and smarter Mayor.

    Cassidy has missed a lot of City Council meetings. Is he getting paid when he's not there? I sure hope not.


  23. I have heard about many of Cassidy's bullying incidents so I decided to watch the March 17th council meeting video from the City's site to hear it for myself, not hear say.

    The council extracted the City Manager from the flag decision since the manager requested this be done for himself. The City Council could have extracted the Mayor altogether (two of the council members had suggested the mayor be removed too), so that only the city council would have the flag policy's final decision.

    However, Benny Lee did not motion to remove Mayor Cassidy. He motioned only to remove the City Manager from the flag policy with due respect to the Mayor. Later in the recording, you see Cassidy fully displaying his bullying character and said “as a mayor with that power I will stop that again and again”, where he confirms he will suspend another 4 to 3 majority council vote, wasting more time and resources.

    You must see this for yourself – it's unbelievable.


  24. “Don't surrender your vote to the dictatorial Cassidy” -Leo West quote in San Leandro Times. Priceless!


  25. Michelle Obama sets history being the first First lady to independently visit China to be inclusive internationally.

    Cassidy prefers us to be divisive to China because he considers them to be oppressive today.

    Here's a link to hear some Chinese comments in China about America.


  26. Councilwoman Ursula Reed, who is African-American, said in the council meeting that night: Cassidy's presentation having a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. was targeted at me. My ancestors have been oppressed over two hundred years from slavery through the civil rights movement. The American Flag throughout that time because it represented the hopes of the people and not the actions of the government.

    It is great that all meetings are recorded by the city and it is vailable on the city official site, anyone can hear it for themselves, do not let anyone tell you what they want you to hear.


  27. The idea is our flag policy permitted foriegn flag fly in our city hall and the Chinese Americans are exercising that lawful right.

    Dan Dillman said “we let you fly foreign flag at home, walk with the flag or wear it, but not in our city hall”… Well, to me, it's interpreted “we let you drink water at home, walk with water bottle, or carry water in your back pack, but don't use the water fountain in our city Hall” even though city policy allows to share the water fountain in our city hall.


  28. Is freedom negotiable? Dan Dillman is a second rate, D list businessman who thinks freedom is negotiable. If you purchase more Bal tickets, you might get a discount on your freedom.

    “I love all Chinese people.” Dan, have you met every Chinese person on Earth or are you just trying to sound extra ignorant and fake? Do you love Mao Zedong, he's Chinese too?


  29. Cassidy is losing votes from opponents of marijuana. Proponents to raise foreign flags see Cassidy as a dictator abusing mayoral power anti-democratically. Many citizens vow to vote bully Cassidy's butt out from his seat.


  30. Cassidy bans freedom and equal rights! Cassidy's anti-democratic antics will continue to reverse the will of the council's majority vote again and again. Cassidy is a dictator and bully!


  31. Cassidy said he raised the rainbow flag for “political reasons”. He never thought it would backfire when he'd be approached to raise ANY other flag. He raised the rainbow flag only to score votes. It's clear he has no intention to roll up his sleeves to support underrepresented communities. His gestures reflect his stance – we are not equal in his eyes.


  32. Pay attention: “Feel free to request flying other nation's flag at San Leandro city hall. It's totally legal and rightful under the current flag policy.” What is all this about?


  33. Freedom of speech!


  34. Pay attention: Don't surrender your vote to the dictatorial Cassidy.


  35. It's about Cassidy needs to be reminded he doesn't own city hall and he is only one vote.


  36. Have anyone seen a American flag raised in China?


  37. Yes, seen many American flags have flown in China.

    American flags raised in Tiananmen Square, Beijiag, many times already, see some of these links for yourself:

    Below link you see American/Chinese flag flap side by side in Tiananmen Square, flag picture is in the middle of the article:

    A Chinese boy wearing an American T-shirt walking thru Tiananmen Square freely!:

    There are many more, just google, only you are open minded to do so.


  38. Below link you see American/Chinese flag flap side by side in Tiananmen Square, flag picture is in the middle of the article, reported by LA Times:


  39. I have followed Mayor Cassidy's FB page and read everyone's comments. Guess what, Cassidy deleted comments and entire threads that are not in his favor. These actions show Cassidy's dictatorial bullying in eliminating comments that don't agree with his.


  40. That's why Cassidy is so unpopular in San Leandro!


  41. We know Cassidy is a bully, dictator, liar, and takes credit that's not his.


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