Candidate Spotlight: George Syrop, Hayward born and raised, hopes to be the city council's next progressive beacon
Oakland's Treva Reid: Gateways of our city 'look like crap;' Emeryville councilmember will not seek re-election. Plus, campaign finance data
GEORGE SYROP - HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL
“This is a race that is very personal to me and my family,” Hayward City Council candidate George Syrop told me over coffee last week in downtown Hayward. Syrop, 28, is Hayward born and raised and one of several young progressive prospects hoping to become the city’s standard-bearer on the left.
Syrop grew up at the Lanai Apartments near Cherryland and attended now-closed Markham Elementary. “I learned how to drive at the Cal State parking lot. This is my hometown,” he said. Syrop attended Impact Academy in Hayward. Because the school was new, he was an upper-classman all four years. “It might be one of the reasons why I’m so insufferable. I wasn’t bullied enough,” he joked.
Over the past four years, progressives in Hayward have shown a vigor for change not seen in the city for decades, if not ever. The confluence of a death at the hands of local police and rapidly rising rents and displacement led groups like the Hayward Community Coalition, which Syrop is a founding member, to become vocal local activists. At the same time, their political power grew quickly.
In recent elections there are signs the progressive movement is ready to flourish in Hayward. Success on Election Day, however, has been uneven. Two years ago, three progressives running as a slate gained a quarter of the at-large council vote. There appears to be no other progressives on this year’s ballot for two open council seats.
Syrop also served as campaign manager for upstart progressive 20th Assembly District candidate Alexis Villalobos. While not successful, the 2020 campaign seriously dug into Democratic Assemblymember Bill Quirk’s long-time majority. This year, Syrop is running a corporate-free campaign. Like Wahab four years ago, Syrop said his campaign is focused on affordable housing.
“I threw my hat into the ring because it’s getting out of hand for people my age.” Younger people are moving out in droves because they are being outpriced, he added. If elected, Syrop would be the only renter on the city council. “In a city where nearly 50 percent of residents are renting, to not have that representation feels like an extreme oversight. I just don’t see how we’re supposed to address the housing crisis if we don’t have that perspective at the table.”
His platform includes creating a vacancy tax to give landlords an incentive to place their properties on the rental market. “What is Hayward waiting for when half of our residents are rent-burdened? When you have the Chamber of Commerce backing half of the council, they’re not interested in a vacancy tax.”
Syrop also supports a rent cap on commercial properties with a focus on small businesses. “The rent they’re trying to charge is just ridiculous, so we’re wasting valuable real estate in our downtown area when we could be providing new services to the Hayward community, bringing in new revenue,” he said. “How is a small business owner whose kids attend the Hayward school district supposed to afford living here if their rent doubles in a year?”
Syrop wants to stop developers from paying in-lieu fees to build affordable housing elsewhere. ”We need the units now and I want to make sure these units are being built by union labor.” Syrop is adamant that he’s not against development, but wants it to be equitable.
“People’s appetites are changing. Folks can only be led astray so long. They’re waking up. Don’t get me wrong, there are good things happening in the city. But which parts of the Hayward population get to benefit from that? We’re speaking together in the downtown, wealthier core of the city while South Hayward is still struggling to get any investment.”
How will Syrop attract votes from three other councilmembers in order to get some of these ideas implemented? “I’m a pretty collaborative leader. I like to find common ground. I want my wins to be their wins, too. There’s no way for me to have wins if I’m not working with other folks.”
When it comes to police reform, Syrop believes Hayward should be watching San Leandro’s nascent effort at forming its recently approved Community Police Review Board. “We ask police to investigate itself or write policy, but there’s no accountability mechanism. We just have to trust that it’s going to be good and that’s that.”
Syrop would like to change the mindset when it comes to budgeting that often prioritizes the police department. In some cases city funding is set aside for police vacancies that are never actually funded, he said, while others parts of the budget are left to scrounge for scraps.
“We have a police department–if I’m going to extend them any empathy–that is overburdened. I don’t think they should be playing some of the roles that we ask them to play. Continuing to invest in policing doesn’t seem to be working. That is what we have been doing. That is the playbook. A lot of my campaign is about ‘We need to run new plays.’ The status quo is falling apart.”
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