A Farewell To Michael Sweeney, The Man Who Made It Easier To Cover Government

One of the few occasions when I was attempting to surreptitiously keep an eye on former Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney’s public dealings, otherwise known as a photo bomb. PHOTO/Natalia Aldana
Michael Sweeney ended three non-
consecutive terms as Hayward’s mayor
this week.

HAYWARD | APPRECIATION | I like to think former Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney called me “Hurricane Tavares” because he agreed with my periodic buzzing of the bad characters in his city. I also like to think my ideals of good and honest government was in line with his since his tenure as mayor never attracted my attention for being a hindrance to democracy. Yet, for being such a thorough leader, Sweeney was often a quiet and somewhat mercurial political character. However, there was never any doubt that behind closed doors, he towered over Hayward government. The conga line of unanimous council votes was the urging and sometimes insistence of Sweeney, but such power, often easily misused by other politicians, never seemed to used against the people of Hayward.

As a political reporter, it’s not often that I can reveal what I really think about the people I chronicle every day, but upon Sweeney’s retirement this week, I can suspend the precepts of the Fifth Estate. I think the man who often wore a simple dress shirt and khakis to every public appearance—rolled up sleeves, of course—was an honest politician. There was a very paternal feel to Sweeney’s tenure in office. Sometimes he even appeared to be giving his council colleagues that look only a parent can convey to their children. Other times, like when he would jokingly chide now-former Councilmember Mark Salinas to quit yapping, he was also imparting friendly advice to be more concise in your thoughts. Sweeney didn’t say much, therefore, when he did, people listened.

Sweeney worst act in office, as an
A’s fan, may have been once posing
with the Giants World Series trophies.

I’ll admit to never being able to crack the mind of Michael Sweeney in the four years covering Hayward politics. He’s an old school private guy. On many occasions, I attempted to prod Sweeney into talking about probably the biggest missteps of his political career during his campaign for the State Senate. During that race his campiagn infamously sent a hit piece that inadvertently included his opponent’s Social Security number. He lost that one and would never bite when I mentioned the unfortunate event. The entire episode intrigued me just for the fact it may have been the only time Sweeney acted un-Sweeney-like. But, sure, Sweeney was not adverse to talking trash in the public realm. He often trashed Hayward’s representative in Sacramento for caving against the interests of his residents a few years ago during the dissolution of redevelopment agencies. However, the attacks against Ellen Corbett and Mary Hayashi, although vicious, were always about the game, not the players.

That being said, his legacy in Hayward is not entire clear. The city has long struggled to acclimate itself to its post-industrial economy and the Great Recession did nothing but exacerbate its dwindling revenue base. However, it may be better to view Sweeney’s Hayward through a different lens. What would the city look like today if it didn’t have his leadership to keep the near-sinking ship afloat during the worst of times? Let’s be frank, the lack of quality among political leaders in Hayward is troublesome and its bench is quite thin. It’s scary to think what the city would look like today if it didn’t have someone like Sweeney who could draw up his perspective as the area’s former assemblyman and the perception he was no longer beholden to Sacramento, labor unions or any other special interest group other than the people of Hayward.

Make no mistake, Sweeney’s departure will be immediately evident on many levels and it will be interesting to see if the new mayor, Barbara Halliday, can keep the holes in Hayward plugged in the short-term. I will honestly miss the soothing cadence of the council meetings Sweeney’s leadership imparted and on a practical note, there is this: Doesn’t everybody like the co-worker who makes your job easier? Michael Sweeney’s commitment to good government was impeccable. For a guy like me, there was never any need to keep watch on him.

Categories: appreciation, Assembly, Barbara Halliday, Ellen Corbett, good government, Hayward, Mary Hayashi, mayor, Michael Sweeney

11 replies

  1. Mike Sweeney doesn't care about Tennyson/Tyrrell/Manon. He's talked a lot of trash to Hayward citizens who have addressed the council, to city employees and anyone who disagreed with him. He enforced costly fees on regular citizens and let favored downtown merchants skate on the same fines/fees. Apathetic voters, low voter turn out, no competition helped keep him in office a longtime. Fran David pulls the council's puppet strings.


  2. Good article!


  3. Yes, Sweeney could run a decent meeting and appeared honest, but had limited ideas and creativity and his need to control showed great disrespect for staff and his council colleagues, including Mayor Halliday. It was his way or nothing at all. He was great getting the Clean and Green program going but neglected almost everything else, including city employees, the local economy, and business community, residents of the neediest areas of Hayward and education issues. His constant disdain and criticism of HUSD was not at all helpful. Rarely offered solutions, always negatives, even when his friends, Paul Frumpkin, among others were serving on HUSD.
    Mike’s time has passed, the city is faced with big problems that came about during his leadership. Many other cites have successfully overcome these problems. Why hasn’t Hayward? Lots of control, but a lack of leadership on many important issues. Time to say thanks, put this period behind us and move forward.

    Thanks Mike and Adios.


  4. Thanks for the Sweeney article. most of his entire adult life has been dedicated to politics. He is not very old and I do hope the next chapter in his life will be rewarding.


  5. He was an airhead. Get the Hell out. an STAY OUT!!


  6. Michael ruled with an Iton fist.
    His way or the Highway. He was
    A prude , got rid of Cannsbis dispensarys , ratio parlors , smoking
    Downtown , vape shops , feeding the
    Poor, sleeping overnight outdoors.
    On and on mean spirited . Out of touch, anti-labor egotistical jerk.


  7. not bad for a guy running a city famous for it's earthquake fault.


  8. Great write up and happy retirement Mayor!


  9. I think we can all watch Barbara Halliday make a fool of herself as mayor, now that she is “in charge.” Fran David needs to write a stafff report requesting funds to hire someone who will help Mayor H keep her foot out of her mouth. If there are any extra funds, maybe a speach writer for our new mayor, so she won't say “um” and cackle all the time. When she speaks, she reminds me of fingernails on a chalkboard.


  10. Another 2-faced asshole. I'll promise you the world and shake your hand while I stab you in the back and pick your pocket, along with the old family on the city council.


  11. Sweeney's a good guy, the only flaw I ever saw in him was his at times prohibitionist views on alcohol in the city. He was laid back and cracked some joke or other with me every time we'd have to chat. I'll admit I'm not too eager to head back to city hall with him gone.


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