Hayward council lashes out as councilman blames them for ruining downtown

Hayward Councilmember Mark Salinas Tuesday night explaining why he would vote against approving three cannabis dispensaries in Downtown Hayward.

A rift between Hayward Councilmember Mark Salínas and most of the Hayward City Council–long whispered among East Bay political circles–flashed into full relief Tuesday night during a brief, but charged exchange over Salínas’ contention the council has continually hindered development of its moribund downtown.

During a lengthy, although not uncommon for Salínas, and winding comment explaining his decision to oppose the selection of three retail cannabis dispensaries for Downtown Hayward, several members of the council attempted to cut him off. When Salínas protested and demanded more time to finish his comments, Councilmember Al Mendall exclaimed, “You’ve been talking for seven minutes already. How much more time would you like?”

“A few more. Thank you,” Salínas coolly responded

Just prior to the blowup, Councilmembers Francisco Zermeño and Elisa Márquez, who sit farthest from Salínas on the dais, appeared to scoff at Salínas’ assertion that the rest of the council had made decisions that are ruinous to the downtown, especially the freeway-like Hayward Loop, and now approval of three dispensaries in the same neighborhood. Zermeño twice loudly and, somewhat theatrically, cleared his throat during Salinas’ comments.

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During happier times. Hayward Councilmembers Mark Salínas and Al Mendall prior to a council meeting in 2013.

Minutes later, Márquez also challenged Salínas, asserting that his claim of consistently voting against cannabis in Hayward is false. Salínas had voted for cannabis testing labs in Hayward and other ancillary cannabis businesses, she told him, while searching on an iPad to find the exact dates of his votes.

The scene Tuesday night assuredly contained election overtones. Salínas is challenging Mayor Barbara Halliday this November. The race is a rematch of their 2014 campaign, along with Zermeno, for what was then an open seat.

On several occasions during Salínas’ speech, Hayward councilmembers appeared uncomfortable with Salínas litany of assertions against them And some peered across the from each other to catch the eye of another.

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Hayward Councilmember Elisa Márquez Tuesday night questioning Salínas’ assertion that he his votes have consistently opposed cannabis in Hayward.

Salinas labeled the council as opportunistic in allowing the cannabis industry into Hayward, suggesting their motive was primarily revenue driven. “They are just following the opportunity,” said Salínas. “Cannabis coming to Hayward is falling squarely on the seven of us–or, on the six of them.”

Salínas renewed an argument he has made several times over the years that Hayward is inundated with stores selling cigarettes and alcohol, while lacking establishments, for instance, selling fresh produce. “Cannabis is only adding to the list of all of these stores that simply we don’t need more of,” he said.

Cannabis coming to Hayward is falling squarely on the seven of us–or, on the six of them, said Salínas

His comments though also sounded much like a campaign speech, extolling his work in improving many areas of the city, while laying out his stance against cannabis in the downtown areas.

“I’ve been the only guy up here saying this,” he said, referring to his opposition to dispensaries, “but I guess my voice–as someone who lives downtown–I guess my voice is not loud enough because this is going to be a 6-1 vote tonight.” His prediction was proven accurate.

“Downtown Hayward has been clobbered over the years,” he continued. “We have a freeway in the middle of our downtown.” Cannabis dispensary will also deter families from purchasing or renting new homes and units in the area, he added.

When it came to the Loop, later vilified by Hayward residents and visitors alike, Salínas said the council did not listen to their concerns then, he said. “Seven years later we have cannabis in one neighborhood when it has been struck out from every other neighborhood in this city.”

Among Salínas’ colleagues, it is unlikely he will receive much support for his mayoral campaign. But in recent months, the frostiness exhibited by some of his council mates toward Salínas has grown increasingly noticeable. Seated at the far right of the dais, he often appears visibly isolated from the rest of council. In addition, rarely does the council interact with him during meetings.

And when they do, its is typically reserved for an off-hand comment rebutting his rhetoric. In recent months, both Zermeño and Mendall have forcefully disagreed with Salínas during council meetings. In both cases, Salínas did not respond, but glared at each.

Antipathy toward Salínas has also been evident among elected officials in other East Bay cities, and particularly within the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee. Salinas is often described as aloof and more pointedly, as “arrogant.” His public opposition to cannabis industry is apparently not a show only for public comsumption. According to two representatives of cannabis operators, Salínas was either rude or openly hostile to them even being in his office to discuss their plans for Hayward.

Democratic Party officials still harbor clear resentment toward Salinas for his strong stance in support of the City Council in 2014 unilaterally imposing a five percent wage cut on nearly 300 public employees represented by SEIU Local 1021. The act not only rendered Salínas persona non grata among labor and Democratic Party circles, but also still affects Councilmembers Marvin Peixoto, Zermeño, Mendall, and Mayor Halliday–the four remaining elected officials who also voted for the controversial wage cut.

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