I’m not really sure why I haven’t blogged much about San Leandro. I’m pretty active in the community. I’m part of the San Leandro Community Action Network and have been pretty active in a couple of campaigns (I think I’ve blogged about that). But I haven’t written much about the issues that come up in our fair city. Perhaps that is because Mike runs a blog on San Leandro: San Leandro Bytes. He writes about what’s going on there and there is little reason for me to repeat it. My friend and former school board trustee Stephen Cassidy also runs a blog, Go San Leandro, where he explores in detail some the issues that face our community. But still, I probably should at least voice my opinion on issues that come up.
One that has been concerning us all a lot lately is the issue of the crossing guards. For the last decades (our crossing guard has been working as such for 35 years), the city of San Leandro has employed 13 crossing guards to help children in the San Leandro and San Lorenzo school districts cross the street. Many of our elementary schools are located on main arteries where traffic is both fast and dangerous.
But, faced with the need to make budget cuts (though, despite those cuts, the city council managed to pass a bigger budget than last year, mostly by increasing the salary/benefits of police officers – who have a *very* strong union over here), they decided to cut the crossing guards. The crossing guard program costs only about $100K a year. That may seem a lot, but consider that San Leandro just hired an assistant city manager (reputedly so that our city manager, Steve Hollister – who, btw, just moved to Castro Valley, possibly to not have to personally experience the mess he’s created -, can take leaves from work without worries). I haven’t gotten the details of her package yet, but it should cost the city about $250K, $250K that could have been used to fund the crossing guard program. Below, you can find a recent letter I wrote to the local newspaper about this issue.
But this is by no means the only or more egregious example of bad priorities. The city just funded the partial dredging of the San Leandro marina to the tune of two million dollars (you didn’t misread). The San Leandro marina is used mostly by a few out-of-town residents. There was definitely some support among resident boat owners and others who just like the look of sailboats on the water, but the majority of San Leandrans were against it. Not that that bothered the city council in the least. It’s impossible to know what their twisted reasons for spending two million dollars on a useless endeavor were, but I can tell you that in addition to their incompetence, it showed their hypocrisy and dishonesty. City council member Michael Gregory, for example, told the community time and time again that he would vote against the dredging – only to completely turn around. Jim Prola, meanwhile (who, btw, also opposes the crossing guard program), likes to tout himself as an environmentalist, but he had no problem subjecting San Leandrans to the CO emissions caused by the hundreds of truck trips that will be needed to move the mud that comes out of the bay. And all for what?
Oh, and let’s not forget the city council’s support for the Transit Oriented Development – which will crowd hundreds, and eventually thousands, of housing units in the downtown area. Now, I’m very much for smart growth, and that includes building housing (and most importantly employment) developments near public transportation. But smart growth is only smart when /all/ factors are considered. And what the City Council has purposely ignored is the fact that San Leandro cannot offer the needed public services to serve those units. One public service that San Leandro can definitely /not/ provide is education. The two elementary schools closest to the TOD development are currently impacted and have been so for years. Both middle schools operate at capacity, as will the high school once the 9th grade academy is built (it is currently severely overcrowded). There is just no room in them to accommodate more children. San Leandro, moreover, does not have school buses, public transportation to many of the schools is poor, and even if it wasn’t – there is no way in hell the schools will be able to accommodate the hundreds to thousands of new students that will come. There is neither money nor space in the city to build new schools, so the prospects are that students will be crowded in tight rooms and portables which will overtake the limited outside areas that the schools now have. So what if the kids can’t play outside or exercise?
The City Council has basically said “we don’t give a damn”. They maintain that this is the School District problem, and if they can’t solve it, well, “too bad”. Mayor Santos personally told me that the district should build more schools and that “God” should pay for them. Great planning.
What this current city council is basically making clear is that families with children are not welcomed in the city.
Anyway, enough of a rant for now. Here is the letter I sent to the San Leandro Times:
Dear Editor,
I have a solution for the crossing guard problem. Members of City Council have talked about how the job should be manned exclusively by volunteers. I propose that the City Council should also be made out of volunteers. If City Council members gave up their $1400 monthly stipend, the thousands of dollars they receive in health insurance benefits, their car allowance and their cell phones – there would be enough money to fund the whole crossing guard program, and perhaps to hire that additional policeman they keep saying they want. Let’s see if the Mayor or any of the City Council members show any leadership by volunteering to be the first ones to make sacrifices. I bet they won’t.
Margarita Lacabe