A Proxy War for Mayor in San Leandro

San Leandro mayoral candidates, Councilmember Diana Souza, Dan Dillman and Councilmember Pauline Cutter, at a forum Sept. 11 at the San Leandro Main Library. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

SAN LEANDRO | MAYOR | San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy decided earlier this year that one term in office was enough, but that doesn’t mean his large frame isn’t casting a shadow over the campaign to replace him

San Leandro mayoral candidates Diana Souza and Dan Dillman say the city needs a change in direction. Both make sly references to Cassidy’s complicated four years of corrosive division and rampant absenteeism at City Hall. However, almost like the de facto incumbent, another candidate, Pauline Cutter wants to build upon the last four years of growth in San Leandro, in a race likely to be more of referendum on Cassidy’s leadership than the qualifications of the three candidates.

Councilmember Pauline Cutter addressing a
candidates forum last week in San Leandro.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares

“The mayor should be the voice of the city,” Councilmember Souza said at a candidates forum Sept. 11, “the first among the leaders of the city.” She added, the mayor should collaborate with colleagues and members of the community and “not be exclusive of anybody in the conversation.”

The comments appeared to be a direct indictment of Cassidy. No council member publicly sparred with Cassidy more than Souza, who often charged him with belittling council members and talking over their individual concerns. However, afterwards, Souza said repeated references Thursday night to building relationship had nothing to do with Cassidy. Earlier, she had credited her election to the City Council in 2006 as the result of decades of building relationships in San Leandro.

Dillman, the charismatic owner of San Leandro’s Bal Theater, followed Souza with a similar tone. “I think we need leadership that is proactive and promoting the city,” he said, while proclaiming, “You have a friend at City Hall” and “If you elect Dan Dillman as your mayor, that’s real change. That’s when you know something magical has happened in this city.”

Dillman said he would reverse two council decision made during Cassidy’s term that limits access to government and transparency by reinstituting council committee hearings and more expansive descriptions of public meeting transcripts. “You’re option to advocate for your position is in the committee,” said Dillman. “With those gone, your only option is to go to a City Council meeting when they’re about to vote.”

Councilmember Cutter, who, like Souza, approved the discontinuation of committees and reduced minute two years ago, said Thursday, she agrees with Dillman. “I don’t think it works as well,” said Cutter. “We need to vet things out in committee, you need to be able to talk things over and get input from the community.”

Cutter, a preschool teacher who spent 12 years on the San Leandro school board before winning election to the council in 2010, wants to build upon the quick rise from the Great Recession to a city whose technology credentials, primarily with its downtown fiber-optic loop, has become the envy of its neighbors in the East Bay. In addition, Cutter views the downtrodden areas in and around Bayfair Mall as an opportunity to build upon. San Leandro also needs to take advantage of development at the Marina and decide whether a portion of the city’s industrial areas can be transformed into destination areas for workers and residents.