Oakland Garbage Contract Hangs Over San Leandro Council, Elections

My story in this week’s East Bay Express on the fallout from Oakland’s garbage contract pinching into San Leandro’s general fund to the tune of around $500,000 annually is reverberating through the city administration and council. It may also end up being a major campaign talking point this fall. In addition to the mayor’s race, three council seats are open.

As far as Councilmember Benny Lee, who unwittingly lobbied Oakland against his own city’s best interests last month, there is some talk his colleagues, led by Mayor Stephen Cassidy, may attempt to reprimand him for actions. There is even talk of censure, but that would seem unlikely.  Instead, there may be a movement to strip Lee of his recently appointed role as vice mayor. Lee was picked just last May after a bit of controversy over potentially changing how and when the ceremonial position is chosen. If past alliances are taken into account, Lee, along with Councilmembers Diana Souza and Ursula Reed would likely block such a move and need just another colleague to gain a majority.

San Leandro council member could be 
in hot water with his colleagues.

A major reasons given for admonishing Lee is a quick listen of his public comments to the Oakland City Council last July 30 gave the impression he was speaking on behalf of San Leandro. Since the Oakland City Council may not have received the late letter from San Leandro’s city manager describing support for Waste Management’s bid, it is plausible Oakland council members may have been under the impression Lee represented the city’s stance on the contract. Even before the story was published, some business interests in San Leandro already were livid with Lee for lobbying for Oakland-based California Waste Solutions over Waste Management, which processes Oakland waste at the Davis Street Transfer Station in San Leandro.

Meanwhile, San Leandro candidates running as outsiders this fall are salivating over the article revealing a City Hall in disarray and more than a bit of ineptitude to go around. None of the three contested council elections have incumbents. In fact, the list of officials caught asleep at the wheel goes further than Lee and City Manager Chris Zapata. As mayor, Cassidy provided no leadership. Councilmember Jim Prola did nothing even though the transfer station on Davis Street resides in his own district. Councilmember Pauline Cutter, who is running for mayor, sits on the intergovernmental agency involved in waste and recycling in Alameda County and did nothing while her opponent in the mayor’s race, Councilmember Diana Souza received a $1,000 contribution from a member of the family that owns California Waste Solutions, the company that pulled off the stunning upset bid to replace Waste Management in Oakland. Although the donation came two weeks after Oakland voted on the contract, it’s another link to how completely oblivious San Leandro officials were to this deal adversely affecting their own bottom line.

However, there could be significant blow back in the city’s Asian American community if it is perceived Cassidy is launching what the voting bloc, which is quickly gaining power in San Leandro, sees as another slight against them. First the Chinese flag flap at City Hall and now an attack against Lee, the first Asian American to sit on the San Leandro City Council.

Desley Brooks at a candidates forum
Wednesday in Oakland
PHOTO/Steven Tavares

NEVER CAN BE TOO SAFE Despite a trio of surprising quality challenging Oakland Desley Brooks in her re-election bid this fall, she is still a prohibitive favorite to add a fourth term on the City Council. However, the sheer tenacity and grinding sound bites being volleyed by little-known candidate Michael Johnson, in particular, may be taking a toll on Brooks. During a candidates forum last month hosted by the Sierra Club, Johnson and two other challengers, Shereda Nosakhare and James Moore pounded away at Brooks for a perception she has done little to improve the struggling district. When Johnson said, “District 6 is the economic doughnut hole in Oakland,” it was not only one of the best lines this campaign season, but also a signal Brooks will have to employ far more than a perfunctory re-election campaign. To be sure, there are groups in Oakland that don’t like the irascible Brooks, but believe she is electorally untouchable. However, the onslaught against Brooks at the Sierra Club forum appeared to grab the attention of some rival labor groups and the East Bay Bike Coalition, in particular. Brooks seems to be acknowledging the level of competition in this race is greater than expected. There’s word she has hired a political consultant.

Bryan Parker at a candidates forum
Thursday in Oakland.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares

HERE AND THERE Outspoken Oakland mayoral candidate Saied Karamooz has delivered quite a few zingers lately. Following a forum last Monday night at Oakland’s Temple Sinai, Karamooz said the one mayoral candidate who scares him the most is Bryan Parker. “He’s everything that is bad about the system,” said Karamooz. In particular, he blasted Parker for supporting Bitcoin as a method for Oaklanders rise up from poverty. Karamooz says he is not in the mayor’s race to win because that would validate the system, but to instead highlight its hypocrisy…At the same forum, audience members were allowed to ask one question to any candidate. Most chose Jean Quan, Rebecca Kaplan and Libby Schaaf, in that order…Ro Khanna has repeatedly beat the drum over Rep. Mike Honda’s blank schedule for August. Honda, though, is in McAllen, Tex. for two days this week with a bipartisan congressional delegation taking a look at the growing immigration problem at the U.S.-Mexico border. The trip is similar to one taken by Rep. Eric Swalwell

Speaking of the freshman congressman, a few weeks back Swalwell painfully pointed to a Palestinian American in his district while identifying him as “that guy,” and despite saying he didn’t have a “dog in the fight” in the Israeli-Gaza conflict, he tweeted Thursday a photo of himself with Bibi Netanyahu…For a second time this November election season, GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari is appearing at a fundraiser in Fremont for State Senate 10th District candidate Peter Kuo, who is a clear underdog to Democratic Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski…The 10th State Senate District covers parts of San Jose all the way up to Castro Valley. There’s a growing concern that Kuo, who is from Santa Clara, is staying in his South Bay comfort zone too much and needs to show up in the northern parts of the district pronto…Why didn’t more San Leandro candidates come forward to run for mayor after the incumbent mayor surprised many by not running for re-election? One conspiracy theory says Cassidy and other qualified candidates know something bad is on the horizon in San Leandro government; therefore, they wanted no part of the effort to rebuild public confidence. Another theory says, c’mon bro, it’s San Leandro.

Categories: Benny Lee, Bryan Parker, California Waste Solutions, Desley Brooks, Eric Swalwell, Michael Johnson, Peter Kuo, S.L. City Council, Said Karamooz, san leandro, Stephen Cassidy, Waste Management

62 replies

  1. If California Waste Solutions doesn't use the transfer station, how will garbage be sent to the dump? This company is said to be ill prepared for the task at hand. Maybe East Bay Citizen can do an article on the new company and its plans. That could be very interesting.


  2. This was a big mistake by our Vice Mayor. He cost the city he was elected in millions of dollars in general fund revenue that we need for our police and fire services, not to mention schools, libraries, parks and roads. These millions from transfer and permit fees went directly into San Leandro coffers. How does our Vice Mayor hope to replace these millions, or does he propose to cut our already thin police and fire. Don't even pretend he didn't know how this would affect San Leandro as he said, because he was elected because of his budget and financial expertise. What a LIAR Benny Lee is!


  3. Here's my take on the situation which hurts San Leandro:

    Vice Mayor Benny Lee = San Leandro Traitor

    Diana Souza, wanna be Mayor = Benny Lee Puppet

    No wonder they want to fly communist China flag at City Hall


  4. California Waste Solutions is more than prepared for this, that is why WM is so concerned.


  5. Still remember in year 2008 Waste Management locked out their employees for months.


  6. Shame on our Vice Mayor Benny Lee telling Oakland it's OK if they take MILLIONS of dollars and hundreds of JOBS away from San Leandro.

    Shame on Diana Souza for allowing this same company's director to throw a fundraiser for her after taking jobs and millions away from our city.

    Shame on Diana Souza and Benny Lee for wanting to fly the Chinese flag over city hall. Don't vote for Souza for Mayor and Benny Lee should dishonorably resign.




  8. The one person defending Benny Lee's action, and there is only one, seems to forget Benny Lee was elected to represent San Leandro not Oakland. That was a reprehensible action on his part, as San Leandro lost many millions over the life of the contract and hundreds of jobs. In other words —-he screwed the city he represents.

    Very few care that Sara Ubelhart gave money to Pauline Cutter because a majority of voters in California approve of medical marijuana and it's distribution. You are in the minority.

    What they don't approve of is our Vice Mayor Benny Lee telling Oakland it's ok if they take MILLIONS of dollars and jobs away from San Leandro. What San Leandro voters don't approve of this same company's director threw a fundraiser for Diana Souza after taking jobs and millions away from our city.

    What San Leandro voters don't approve of is flying the Chinese flag over city hall. Recall Benny Lee and don't vote for Souza for Mayor.


  9. By MW

    Absolutely agree with above post. BTW the medical mmj ordinance already passed the city council by a 5-1 vote. Benny Lee was the only no vote and Diana Souza recused herself because her son works in a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland. This dispensary wants to put in a bid for San Leandro's dispensary.


  10. Many Thanks to CWS continue purchase trucks from our very best SL trucking companies and thank you for supporting Diana Souza for Mayor! When SL trash contract about due for renewal, San Leandro residents welcome CWS put in lowest price bid – WM better twice if they think they can steal from us!


  11. Shame on our Vice Mayor Benny Lee telling Oakland it's OK if they take MILLIONS of dollars and hundreds of JOBS away from San Leandro.

    Shame on Diana Souza for allowing this same company's director to throw a fundraiser for her after taking jobs and millions away from our city.

    Shame on Diana Souza and Benny Lee for wanting to fly the Chinese flag over city hall. Don't vote for Souza for Mayor and Benny Lee should dishonorably resign.


  12. It's obvious the poster above who keeps trying to defend the San Leandro traitor Benny Lee doesn't understand the harm San Leandro will suffer and why. It's not just the expansion fee San Leandro lost which is over 1 million, but San Leandro gets over 500,000 thousand per year in transfer fees from Waste Management from the Oakland garbage that is brought to Davis Street. This goes into the general fund of the city that helps keep our police, fire, public works going. The contract was a 10 year contract. That comes to 6 MILLION dollars lost to San Leandro's general fund!

    The fact is even though WM is based in Texas, the Transfer Station is based in San Leandro and the garbage that is brought into San Leandro by other cities generates millions of dollars for San Leandro and hundreds of jobs. Oakland garbage will now be brought to Richmond and San Leandro will lose millions in fees and permits and many jobs will be lost in San Leandro. Shame on the Vice Mayor. Resign Benny Lee and do the honorable thing. Move to Oakland where your friends are. Souza should go with you.


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