WHITE MAN CAN JUMP: San Leandro’s lone
Caucasian council member is named 
vice mayor despite calls for diversity.

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | In the past, San Leandro chose its largely ceremonial vice mayor every spring, but a low-level charter crisis last year led to a charter amendment on the November ballot moving it to the beginning of the year.

San Leandro voters easily approved the inconsequential initiative, but the fault lines stemming from election year politics, race and the previous mayor’s troubled relationship with his colleagues still exist.

During the first council meeting of the year Monday night, the City Council exercised its new charter obligation and named Councilmember Jim Prola vice mayor.

The District 6 representative held the position two years ago before being replaced by Councilmember Benny Lee, who held the vice mayorship for just over six months.

Former Councilmember Diana Souza, who was termed out last year and unsuccessfully ran for mayor, told the council to acknowledge the city’s diversity with its pick of a new vice mayor. “I believe all of you have taken a positive position on embracing diversity of our city,” said Souza. “Now is the time to start building that reality.”

However, Councilmember Corina Lopez nominated Prola. Later, Lee offered a substitute motion nominating Councilmember Ursula Reed, but it failed to receive a second. “History has been made in this last election,” said Lee. The San Leandro City Council is arguably one of the most diverse in the entire East Bay. It also features a female majority, Lee added. Prola is the only Caucasian male on the new council.

While there is no specific role for the vice mayor, the position typically entails representing the city at local and regional functions, often in the absence of the mayor.

However, the honorific maintains some gravitas to laypersons, especially during an election cycle, which comes next year. In 2016, as the only sitting member up for re-election that year, Lee could make another push for the position.