SAN LEANDRO -- The District 1, 3 and 5 City Council races are on the Nov. 2 ballot, but among the incumbents only District 3 Councilwoman Diana Souza is running unopposed.
In District 1, Councilman Michael Gregory faces a tough challenge from David Anderson, a former Oakland school board member. In District 5, where Councilman Bill Stephens is termed out, San Leandro school board trustee Pauline Cutter and businesswoman Corina Lopez are locked in a tight race.
After the election, the next City Council will face numerous challenges over the next four years. Declining revenue has resulted in recurring budget deficits, which have resulted in cuts to services and personnel at City Hall.
The current council has pinned its hopes on an improving economy and the passage of Measure Z -- a sales tax increase that would increase city sales taxes from 9.75 percent to 10 percent if approved by more than half of the city's voters. The measure is projected to bring in $4 million a year for seven years. The city had a $3 million deficit this year, plugged by tapping into the last of its reserve fund.
If Measure Z does not pass, council members will have to grapple with more cuts to services and personnel, which have been unpopular with city staff members and for residents who utilize city services.
Here are brief profiles of the council hopefuls:
You may have seen Michael Gregory riding around San Leandro on his bicycle. The administrator for American Red Cross Blood Services prefers his bike to his car.
Promoting a healthful lifestyle and a sustainable environment for the city's residents have been recurring themes since he began serving on the City Council in 2007.
"We are a much greener and more progressive community since I have served on the council," he said. "Our response times from our public safety sectors are lower, our downtown is much cleaner. I'd like to see the new Kaiser Hospital completed while maintaining San Leandro Hospital's acute-care status."
He hopes to help complete the city's Transit Oriented Development plan as well as a development plan for the city's shoreline area.
Gregory, who has lived in San Leandro for 25 years, supports Measure Z and voted to place it on the Nov. 2 ballot.
If re-elected, he wants to "expand economic development, keep our community safe, continue to deliver quality city services and improve the partnership with our schools," he said.
Compared with his rival, David Anderson is a relative newcomer to town, having lived here for four years. The retired sheet metal worker got his first taste of politics by serving as an Oakland school district trustee from 1987 to 1992.
At a Sept. 30 candidates forum, he told the audience that he had become fed up with deficits in the city and, instead of complaining to his neighbors, he chose to get involved.
Anderson said he has been knocking on doors and talking with thousands of residents, even walking from the San Leandro hills to the marina.
He said the residents he has spoken with have told him that the council has a "deaf ear" to their concerns. He wants to increase accessibility, accountability and transparency.
He said public safety will be a priority and he hopes to increase the number of police and firefighters in the city. He also said he wants to provide incentives to businesses that want to move here.
Anderson supports Measure Z, but he voiced concerns that the seven-year life of the measure is too long.
"San Leandro needs someone fresh, positive and with leadership experience," he said.
Pauline Cutter has served on the San Leandro Unified School District board since 1998, and she works as an educator and preschool director in the San Lorenzo Unified School District.
"I have lived in San Leandro for over 34 years, raised my family here, and have spent most of those years working to improve our community's quality of life," she said.
She said that if elected, she will work toward maintaining a balanced budget. Also, she said she would work to attract and retain businesses in town, and implement a "shop local" marketing approach to help rebuild local sales tax revenue.
Cutter supports Measure Z, but said she believes it's only a "Band-Aid" to the city's budget woes.
"My family is deeply invested in this community, and my husband and I intend to stay here. I want to continue to provide effective leadership on the City Council and make San Leandro an even greater place to live."
With an education in finance from Princeton University and experience running her own business, Lopez feels she has the right qualities to serve on the council.
She has lived in town for about seven years and has been active in the community, serving as the at-large representative on the city's Human Services Commission, president of the Best Manor Homeowners Association, and co-founder and co-chairwoman of the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce Latino Business Council.
She said her priorities include public safety, maintaining the city's infrastructure, such as roads, parks and libraries, and using her background in finance to promote fiscal responsibility and sound economic development that will create good-paying jobs for the city's residents.
Lopez said she firmly supports Measure Z.
"As the daughter of Mexican migrant farm workers who settled in the Salinas Valley, my family background is one of labor activism and a strong belief in social justice," she said. "If elected, I will be the first Hispanic, the first Latina, to be elected to San Leandro City Council. It is time that the decision-makers seated at the table truly reflect the face of the community."