Clockwise: Former San Leandro Mayors Stephen
Cassidy, Tony Santos and Shelia Young.
SAN LEANDRO | Former San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy believes he’s one of the most effective leaders the city has ever had. “I was most progressive mayor San Leandro has had and did more in four years, including setting a new vision for San Leandro, than most have done in eight,” Cassidy tweeted last week. The declaration did not sit well with two other former San Leandro mayors.
“Tell him he’s full of shit,” said Tony Santos, who preceded Cassidy as mayor from 2006 to 2010. “Tell him to go see a psychiatrist.” Cassidy defeated Santos in the 2010 mayoral election by a few hundred votes and their rivalry continues to this day. In fact, Santos refused to concede the election that year, the city’s first use of ranked choice voting.
Cassidy’s comment also upset Shelia Young, another former San Leandro mayor who served two terms in office beginning in 1998. “Mr. Cassidy needs to do some serious fact-checking and then take a chill pill,” said Young.
Aside from Cassidy’s assertion placing him at the top of the city’s list of mayors, both of his predecessors took issue with a string of 10 self-laudatory tweets describing his role in providing needed affordable housing, bolstering the city’s finances and saving employee pensions, among other accomplishments. “On pensions I preserved them–only asked employees to pay their share under California law and achieved this through collective bargaining, too,” tweeted Cassidy.
The issue, however, once framed Cassidy as hostile to employee unions and their pensions due, in part, by his alarmist mayoral campaign that asserted employee pensions were threatening the solvency of the city. Both Santos and Young scoffed at Cassidy’s newfound progressive zeal.
“Cassidy is a megalomaniac,” said Santos. He’s progressive like Trump. We started pension reform years before he was even around,” said Santos. “Don’t give me that stuff that he saved pensions. He screwed up our administration while in office.” Because of Cassidy’s work obligations, added Santos, he failed to participate in committee meetings and his bullying tactics “wrecked” the chemistry among sitting members of the city council.
“There are reasons he only served one term at both the school [board] and city [council],” said Young, alluding to Cassidy’s gruff personality and brain drain of city employees that occured early in his administration. “San Leandro lost the most effective employee base within a year of his realm. He should apply for a city manager job if he wants to be considered in charge.”
In a subsequent tweet, Cassidy lauded his work on affordable housing, This too, rankled his fellow ex-mayors.
@eastbaycitizen approved expansion of affordable housing units & new project across from SL BART station, promoted tolerance & diversity 9
— Stephen Cassidy (@MayorCassidy) August 26, 2016
But, Santos claims Cassidy did little to build much-needed affordable housing in San Leandro, asserting the rezoning of the property behind the San Leandro BART station that now includes the OsiSoft tech campus resulted in the loss of hundreds of affordable housing units. Santos is also critical of recent statements Cassidy has made to the planning commission advocating for limiting the height of new buildings in San Leandro.
“How can you be for affordable housing when you want to limit buildings to three stories?” asked Santos. “You show us where you met the housing requirements for the city of San Leandro? I can attest this city hasn’t met its requirements for a number of years.”
In recent months, Cassidy has made a number of appearances, weighing-in on issues at several public meetings. Cassidy’s higher profile is leading some to believe he’s angling for a return to public office. “Maybe you should ask him what he’s running for?” said Young.
A few San Leandro politicos believe Cassidy is laying the groundwork for a run at first-term Mayor Pauline Cutter or District 1 Councilmember Deborah Cox, both up for re-election in two years.
Cassidy denies he’s eyeing a run for office in two years. Instead, he said, “I am focused on helping the San Leandro school district pass Measure J1,” San Leandro’s $104 million school bond on the November ballot, “nothing else.”
Despite Cassidy’s declaration, most agree San Leandro’s most important political figure is former Mayor Jack Maltester, who led the city through rapid expansion in the 1950s and 1960s. Santos agrees. Maltester did more than any of us combined,” said Santos. “I never liked the word ‘I’. We all participate and there’s no new ideas. They’ve all been tried before.”