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May 30, 2006 > Mike Sweeney, candidate for Hayward mayor

Mike Sweeney, candidate for Hayward mayor

by Steve Warga

Local product, Mike Sweeney, served on the City Council and one term as mayor before heading to the state Assembly for two terms. He's back now and thinks he's the right choice for Mayor, once again.

TCV: You were mayor from 1990 to 1994. What motivated you to seek that office again?

Sweeney: I've always liked working at the local level, you're closer to folks. That's what I enjoy about working here at Spectrum Senior Services. We work with Meals-on-Wheels and help educate seniors in things like how to avoid falls and remain flexible and mobile.

So I like helping and a lot people approached me about running again. We've had discussions, about as far back as 2004 and I decided to go ahead this year.

TCV: You've held numerous political positions. Has there been a plan you've followed?

Sweeney: I grew up believing it was important to contribute to your community. When my sisters and I were small and my dad was active in the union, I remember stuffing envelopes with campaign materials for Pat Brown and John Kennedy. Even though I was young and didn't understand much of what we were doing, I think the lesson I took from this was that politics impacts peoples' lives. You can help people and improve the community by getting involved at whatever level suits you. That's what I've always tried to do by working in local and state politics and involvement with non-profits like I'm doing now.

TCV: You served two terms in the state Assembly, did you consider running for the state Senate?

Sweeney: Well I did try for the senate and didn't win. Then the governor asked me to work as Undersecretary of the State Resources Agency, so that all worked out well.

I learned that politics at the state level gets pretty toxic at times. What I like about the local level is dealing with real people and their concerns, instead of facing lobbyists in Sacramento who wear $5,000 suits and work on behalf of big money interests.

TCV: Speaking of local issues, where do you stand on the proposed sale of the City Center Parking Garage?

Sweeney: I'm concerned with the idea of building condos on top of an existing structure that already has structural problems, so I think it would be best to put a new structure in place before putting condos there. As far as the old City Building, I think it's pretty clear from the history that it isn't going to be refurbished. So it's probably best to take it down.

TCV: Do you think the sale price of $1.5 million is too low?

Sweeney: It's a little hard to know without seeing the details of the appraisal. The cost of retrofitting the garage may be quite high, assuming it can be fixed at all. Without knowing those costs, it's tough to say whether the price is fair or not.

TCV: What are your thoughts on the current level of police services in Hayward?

Sweeney: When I walk the precinct neighborhoods and talk to the voters, crime and public safety are big concerns. There's a gap right now between population growth and flat or declining service levels due to budget cuts and we need to change that. We need more officers, which means we must find ways to pay for that.

Perhaps we could use some redevelopment funds for officers downtown, then move our present forces to the higher crime areas. Or maybe we need to use some of our reserve money, which the city has kept healthy during these tighter budget times in recent years. Revenues have grown this year, so I think we should use some of that money for more officers on the streets.

TCV: You emphasize a need for improved schools. How much influence does the city have?

Sweeney: Going back to the '80's, Hayward parents have said pretty much the same thing, "We'll send our kids to Hayward elementary schools, but not the high schools." And they site the same reasons, lack of academic quality, crime and discipline concerns. When you talk to school district personnel, you won't hear the same things. That disconnect is a real problem.

The mayor doesn't have a magic wand to wave, nor does he have the legal authority to intervene with the school districts. But he does have the constitutional right to express his thoughts and it's important that he do so. The next mayor can't just go along to get along. He needs to be out front, speaking up for the citizens and their concerns. When the schools perform well, the entire community benefits and the voters tend to approve funding requests from the districts.

TCV: Anything you'd like to add?

Sweeney: Well, I think it's important for the community to work with park districts to plan and expand our parks and recreation areas. I like what we're doing with the old cannery area, putting in the new Burbank school and using some of that ground for recreation area and a greenbelt. It's a good example of some nice integrated planning.

I also would like to see Hayward get some sprucing up. We need to restore some sense of pride in our city.

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