Profiles in leadership: Hayward mayor tells council to allow staff to lead during covid-19 crisis

Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday

Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday told fellow councilmembers that they should “stand aside” and allow the city’s administrative staff to lead its response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Hayward beatHalliday further suggested city staff, not the city’s elected leaders, have the experience and breadth of knowledge required to lead the city during the pandemic. The list of requirements for being mayor are few and mundane. You must live in the city and win the election, Halliday said.

“We are not the professionals. Right now, it is our job to stand aside and let our very capable professional staff do — as far as I can see — has been doing a very good job over the past couple of weeks,” Halliday said at the Mar. 24 council meeting.

In addition, Halliday said she was suspending the council’s referral process for the time being.

The mayor’s comments came in response to a question from Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab’s about the council’s referral process going forward as the covid-19 outbreak continues.

Wahab led the push last year to reform the Hayward City Council’s process for councilmembers to recommend placing issues and policies on future agendas.

In the past, the generally accepted process consisted of a majority of councilmember’s affirmatively nodding their heads in support of the proposed agenda item. This typically occurred outside the purview of the public.

But despite support among the council for a more public referral process, there has often been push back by some councilmembers, along with the mayor, and city manager, who believe the increased number of referrals, particularly from Wahab, has overwhelmed the city staff’s limited time and bandwith.

During her comments last week, Halliday reiterated the need to limit the scope of the city staff’s work during the covid-19 outbreak. “We need to practice as efficiently as we can so that our staff can do the much needed work,” Halliday said.

On at least one occasion last year, Hayward’s city administration attempted to limit the number of referrals any councilmember could make in a year. The move was seen by some to specifically silence Wahab’s activism on the council.

Earlier this year, Hayward City Manager Kelly McAdoo raised the possibility of a similar policy to limit the amount of referrals coming before the council.

Since Wahab’s was elected to the Hayward City Council in 2018, she has almost single-handedly moved the council’s moderate to left-of-center politics significantly to the left. Wahab’s referrals have led to a number of new renters’ protections, oversight of the police department in the case of officer-involved shootings, and an acceleration of the city’s minimum wage.

A referral authored by Wahab earlier this month to include commercial tenants in Hayward’s approved covid-19 eviction moratorium was not added to the council’s agenda earlier this month. However, the topic is now scheduled to be heard at its next meeting on April 7.