Mayor-elect Pauline Cutter will definitely
be a change of pace from her predecessor.
SAN LEANDRO | There were no surprises in San Leandro’s moribund races last week. Mayor-elect Pauline Cutter came within two points of gaining a majority without the use of ranked choice voting tabulations over Diana Souza. Corina Lopez, Lee Thomas and Deborah Cox also cruised to easy victories. Like Oakland and Berkeley, San Leandro has used ranked choice voting since 2010. However, its utility has been vastly underused here.
Aside from the 2010 upset of Mayor Tony Santos by Stephen Cassidy that brought a 200 vote win through rounds of ranked choice voting and one tight race for council two years ago, very few races have either featured enough candidates to have the system make much of difference or the winners have blazed through a simple majority on their own by way of first place votes. In fact, two of three council races last week, did not need ranked choice at all. Lopez and Thomas quickly topped majority and Cox only padded her lead over three similarly strength opponents.
Ranked choice voting was instituted four years ago to save cities money during a time when the Great Recession had hit the hardest. Initially, the system is more expensive in the short term, but considerably less going forward. Theoretically, San Leandro can opt-out of ranked choice after its third use. This election was its third use, but also the point when the price of elections will drop significantly. Nothing odd happened during this cycle to ratchet up the concern some have for its usefulness. Something like Dan Dillman winning the mayor’s race with its help. And that means only one thing: it’s not going away anytime soon.
COLLABORATION San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy alienated just about everyone in town who could have helped him over the past four years. His reign of boorishness is nearly over. Mayor-elect Cutter takes over in January and there is hope for the City Council to quickly heal its wounds. Cassidy did not wreck the city. In fact, he built upon some of its early building blocks like the new Kaiser Permanente completed this year and OSIsoft’s downtown fiber optic loop. San Leandro is on a definite upward trajectory, but it could have been steeper with better leadership.
Cassidy made enemies even before his election with the police department, city employees and with regular people who couldn’t stand his misplaced arrogance. Every conversation quickly became a competition for Cassidy to assert he was always the smartest person in the room at the same time suggesting you were the dumbest. Soon, his council colleagues often privately grumbled Cassidy’s behavior was even worse behind closed doors. Cutter, though, is completely different in style.
She may not be qualified to be mayor based on her accomplishments and her vision, but neither were the other two in the race, but her council colleagues will be able to work with her. For one, Cutter needs to limit her association to Cassidy from the outset. He is controlling and some at City Hall will be watching whether Cassidy won’t be controlling her behind the scenes. There was already that impression when he was mayor and she was the council member who routinely voted with him.
But, it’s very conceivable that Cutter makes the city work in a better fashion by acting as a mayor among equals on the City Council. However, the comity that results could be wasted if it resorts to a common problem in San Leandro when all the council returns is a conga line of 7-0 decision. Sheer group think won’t help move San Leandro forward, either.