San Leandro will elect three city council members in November. There are nine candidates. Each candidate must live in the district he or she seeks to represent. But they are elected based on a city wide vote.
The candidates spoke to about 50 people at a forum Wednesday night that lasted about two hours.
Here are highlights.
- Crime was a top issue. That was agreed. Most candidates talked about hiring more police if there were money, which there is not. Jim Prola cited city data showing that serious crime is lower today than several years ago. But the public is more attuned to the uptick from an all-time low in 2010.
- Saving San Leandro Hospital came up repeatedly. There seemed to be considerable sentiment for the city to do whatever it can to make sure that Sutter Health doesn't close the hospital. What or how much the city can do wasn't clear.
- Public employee pensions exposed some sharpe differences. Candidates Morgan Mack-Rose, Chris Crow and Hermy Almonte said rising city pension costs were cutting into the city budget and taking money from libraries, roads and police staffing. They are running against three candidates -- Ursula Reed, Benny Lee and Jim Prola -- who are endorsed by the city's Police Officers Association. The three POA endorsees have been circumspect on whether San Leandro city employees should join their peers in the rest of Alameda County in paying into their pension funds.
Here is the gist of each candidate's pitch, organized by district:
The Second District (in alphabetical order):
- Bal Theater owner Dan Dillman talked about passion and accountability, and said San Leandro needed "out of the box thinking" which he could bring to the council.
- School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose said she would be a more active leader and cited her success in steering the school board toward concensus in tough budgetary times, as she could help do if elected to the council.
- Incumbent Ursula Reed said she was proud that the council had moved forward during her tenure on projects like the Kaiser Hospital and fiber optic loop despite going through "a recession like no other."
In District Four there is no incumbent:
- Chris Crow said he had grown up in San Leandro, studied its rules and issues, had been fearless in tackling problems like the hospital and public employee pensions, and would be a fighter on the council.
- Darlene Daevu cited her long experience as an employee for city governments in San Francisco and other Bay Area communities as giving her the background and interpersonal skills to succeed on the council.
- Justin Hutchison said he was a fourth-generation San Leandran who now raised his family in the house in which he grew up, a newcomer to government who would represent average folks.
- Benny Lee cited his experience as president of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association and work on data projects in private industry and the public sector as providing the skills analytical skills to be a good councilman.
In District Six:
- Hermy Almonte said that as vice president of the San Leandro School Board he had passed tough budgets and could do the same on the council which had to "negotiate leaner retirement packages for public employees."
- Incumbent Jim Prola said he had helped San Leandro balance its budget, worked with local schools to save them $200,000 a year in garbage fees, and wanted to return to the council because "there's more work to be done."
Patch will have more stories from the candidate forum later. Mike Katz-Lacabe will soon post a video of the two-hour session for those who want to see and hear its entirety.