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.

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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.

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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.

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