SAN LEANDRO -- The mayoral race is where most of the action is in the three local elections on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Five candidates are vying to unseat Mayor Tony Santos, who is going all out to keep the city's top job.

A dismal economy has made for a rough term for Santos, with City Hall experiencing budget deficits and reductions in staff and services -- though Santos is quick to note that under his tenure, a large Kaiser-Permanente hospital is rising in town, new senior housing has opened and the city recently secured a $2.4 million federal grant to hire five police officers for three years.

Two candidates with plenty of experience in local politics are challenging Santos: Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak and ex-school board Trustee Stephen Cassidy, both among Santos' harshest critics.

Also in the running is Sara Mestas -- a rapper with a racy music video on YouTube -- but with experience in local government, having advocated to preserve school crossing guards and served as a rent-control board member for the city.

John Palau, a retired construction manager, has two main reasons for running for mayor: public anger at red-light camera tickets and getting Caltrans moving on rebuilding the Interstate 880/Highway 92 interchange.

And, to keep things interesting, Lou Filipovich is running as a write-in candidate. Through the years, Filipovich has run unsuccessfully in countless elections, from the Oro Loma Sanitary District board to the state Legislature.


Advertisement

Two items on the ballot for San Leandro voters are Measure M, a $50.1 million school sports facilities bond; and Measure Z, a quarter-percent sales tax increase that would raise the city's sales tax to 10 percent for seven years, and add an estimated $4 million a year to the city's general fund, which suffered a $3 million budget deficit last year.

Here are brief profiles of the mayoral candidates:

Tony Santos

If you've paid attention to local politics, you should know the name Tony Santos. An Air Force veteran and retired insurance claims adjuster who has lived in town for 47 years, Santos served on the City Council from 1984 to 1992, and again from 2001 to 2006. He has been the city's mayor since 2007.

His three main campaign issues are maintaining a balanced budget, completing the development of the San Leandro Marina and improving the city's streets and roads.

"I am committed to working for the betterment of the city of San Leandro and maintaining its great quality of life and history," he said. "I have worked for many years to maintain our industrial base and keep our neighborhoods safe, secure and attractive. I plan on continuing these qualities as we move forward, to not only maintain what we have, but to improve upon them."

Santos supports Measure M and was instrumental in placing Measure Z on the ballot.

At a Sept. 30 candidates forum, Santos extolled his efforts to lobby for a $2.18 million federal Community Oriented Police Services grant, that was awarded last week and will pay for five new police officers in the city.

Stephen Cassidy

Stephen Cassidy has been one of Santos' most vocal critics at City Council meetings and on the campaign trail, criticizing both the mayor and Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak over budget deficits.

Cassidy is a consumer protection attorney who served on the school board from 2004 to 2008. He hopes to restore San Leandro to fiscal health and create quality jobs.

"Instead of last-resort sales tax hikes, we must return fiscal common sense to City Hall and support existing businesses and bring new businesses to our city," he said.

He also said he will proactively address crime.

"We must bring our understaffed Police Department to full strength as well as implement innovative and proven community policing strategies to promote public safety," he said.

Also, he intends to build partnerships with the San Leandro Unified and San Lorenzo Unified school districts.

"I will collaborate with both school districts, providing financial support of student programs from a balanced budget," he said.

Cassidy supports Measure M but opposes Measure Z, stating that city should live within its means rather than increase taxes.

"I care deeply for San Leandro and our city needs leaders with solutions to our challenges," he said.

Joyce Starosciak

Joyce Starosciak has a degree in mechanical engineering and owns her own company, Starotech Computer Support Services. She was a San Leandro school board member from 1994 to 1998, and president of the board in 1997. She has served on the San Leandro City Council from 2005 to the present, serving as vice mayor in 2009-10.

Like Santos, she supports Measure M and voted to place Measure Z on the November ballot.

She wants to maintain strong police patrols and focus on crime prevention through school resource officers, traffic safety, community compliance, and gang prevention.

She also believes that San Leandro needs quality restaurants and grocery options, such as a Trader Joe's store.

"We must become an attractive city through development of the downtown, the marina, Kaiser, and Bayfair (shopping mall)," she said.

Business development is also high on her list of priorities.

"Businesses provide the vast majority of our revenue through property and sales taxes and business license fees. To balance our budget, we must attract and retain business," she said. "I've spoken with neighbors throughout the city and they are worried about the future of San Leandro. They find themselves going to Castro Valley to grocery-shop, Stoneridge mall (in Pleasanton) to clothing-shop, and everywhere else to eat out. San Leandro deserves better leadership. I have created strong communities at the school board level and the city level. I will be a mayor to make San Leandro proud."

Sara Mestas

After posting a suggestive rap music video on YouTube under the stage name Mo Wiley, Mestas might seem an unlikely candidate for mayor, yet the 33-year-old mother of three is involved in city affairs and knows the issues.

Mestas advocated for saving crossing guards at San Leandro schools in 2008, and volunteered to be a guard herself. She was later appointed the city's rent review board, and Alameda County's Community Action Board for housing and employment.

Promoting economic development is one of her main issues.

"Economic development must include a citizen plan, which includes incentives for new businesses as well as a plan to retain new businesses," she said. "Our budget must be balanced by a mixture of cuts, restructuring; a plan which includes current and future expected expenditures, reserves, and creative revenue streams."

Also high on her priority list is public safety. When police Chief Ian Willis retires at the end of the year, she would like to see a new chief who is innovative and willing to create "strategic plans" to "creatively resolve financial, funding and staffing issues," she said.

Mestas said she supports both Measure M and Measure Z, although she believes Measure Z is a regressive tax that would hurt poor citizens the most.

"The citizens want more transparency in our government and their voice to not only be heard but counted in the final consensus of city matters that ultimately affect them," she said. "I believe that I can offer leadership that is nonpartisan and fair to all stakeholders of the city of San Leandro."

John Palau

A newcomer to politics, Palau has plenty of experience in heavy construction, having worked for more than 25 years on multimillion-dollar projects as a project manager, estimator and superintendent.

The father of four has lived in San Leandro for 23 years.

Palau said he will work to freeze current city pensions and establish a 401(k) pension system for existing and new city employees.

Another item on his to-do list, if elected, is to schedule a meeting with Caltrans and request that the agency accelerate completion of the Interstate 880/Highway 92 interchange to alleviate traffic backups, accidents, and confusion.

He also wants to review the need for the red-light camera at E. 14th and Davis streets, reduce excessive fines and have more revenue from the fines go to city coffers.

Palau said he has not made up his mind yet on Measure M, but opposes Measure Z. "No new taxes," he said at a Sept. 30 candidates forum.

He said he is running for mayor "to eliminate the inefficient operation of the city."

Lou Filipovich

Lou Filipovich missed the filing deadline to appear on the ballot because of a health problem, but he qualified to be a write-in candidate.

The lone Republican in the race and a harsh critic of the Democratic Party and local politics in Alameda County, Filipovich is a perennial candidate in Alameda County. He has run for virtually every elected office in the county during at least the last 15 years, usually for several offices in a single election.

In his 80s, Filipovich was a longtime presence at City Council, Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Adjustments meetings until health problems earlier this year prevented him from attending.

Filipovich complains that election rules are often disregarded in the county and that taxpayers are mistreated.

At a Sept. 30 candidates forum, he pledged, if elected, to fight for the San Leandro taxpayer.

Tony Santos

AGE: 77
OCCUPATION: Mayor
CITY OF RESIDENCE: San Leandro, 47 years
EDUCATION: Bachelor's from San Francisco State; one year law school at Golden Gate College of Law.
ELECTED POSITIONS: City Council from 1984-1992 and 2001-2006. Mayor from 2007 to present.
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Air Force, insurance claims adjuster
PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat
WEBSITE: www.santosformayor2010.com


Stephen Cassidy

AGE: 46
OCCUPATION: Consumer protection attorney
CITY OF RESIDENCE: San Leandro, eight years
EDUCATION: School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University (1986 B.S.F.S.); University of California, Hastings College of the Law (1989 J.D.).
ELECTED POSITIONS: Trustee, San Leandro Unified School District from 2004-2008
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Member of board of directors for the nonprofit Building Futures with Women and Children, and the San Leandro Scholarship Foundation.
PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat
WEBSITE: www.cassidyforsanleandro.com


joyce starosciak

AGE: 44
OCCUPATION: Owner, Starotech Computer Support Services
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Lifelong resident of San Leandro, except while in college
EDUCATION: Bachelor's in engineering from Harvey Mudd College 1988; Master's in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech 1990.
ELECTED POSITIONS: San Leandro school board member from 1994-1998, school board president 1997; San Leandro City Council member 2005 to present, vice mayor 2009-2010.
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Recreation and Parks Commission member 1993-1994.
PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat

WEBSITE: www.electjoyce.org

sara mestas

AGE: 33
OCCUPATION: Self-employed, music recording artist
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Lifelong San Leandro resident
EDUCATION: Cal State East Bay biochemistry major, has taken time off while in senior year.
ELECTED POSITIONS: None
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Rent Review Board in San Leandro; Alameda County's Community Action Board for housing and employment; assistant general manager at a Taco Bell; marketing director PCA 1997-2001; volunteer firefighter/EMT 2001-2003; general manager, Digital Security Systems 2003-2004, Wind River Systems 2004-2005; Hilltop Financial Loan consultant 2005-2007; mentoring program coordinator California Police Activities League April 2010-present.
PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat
WEBSITE: www.electsaramestas.org

john palau

AGE: 68
OCCUPATION: Heavy construction manager, estimator
CITY OF RESIDENCE: San Leandro, 23 years
EDUCATION: Bachelor's from the University of San Francisco
ELECTED POSITIONS: None
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Over 25 years of responsibility for multimillion-dollar projects as a project manager, estimator and superintendent.
PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat

lou filipovich

AGE: 80s
OCCUPATION: N/A
CITY OF RESIDENCE: San Leandro
EDUCATION: N/A
ELECTED POSITIONS: None
OTHER EXPERIENCE: N/A
PARTY AFFILIATION: Republican