December 30, 2007

Former Mayor Jack Maltester's Testimony Before the US Commission on Civil Rights

On May 6, 1967, San Leandro Mayor Jack Maltester testified at a hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which was investigating housing discrimination.

The complete text of Maltester's testimony follows.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. The next witness is the Hon. John D. Maltester. Whereupon, the Hon. John D. Maltester was sworn by the Chairman and testified as follows: )

TESTIMONY OF THE HON. JOHN D. MALTESTER, MAYOR OF SAN LEANDRO, CALIFORNIA

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Would you please state your full name and address for the record.

MAYOR MALTESTER. It's Jack D. Maltester, 715 Woodland Avenue, San Leandro.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. What is your occupation?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Half owner in a printing business and mayor of the city of San Leandro.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. How long have you been mayor?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Since 1958.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Are you also a member of the city council ?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Yes.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. What is the population of San Leandro?

MAYOR MALTESTER. The last official population was 69,000, close to 70,000, and anticipated at this time probably closer to 75,000.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. You think it's about 75,000?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Yes.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. How many Negroes live in San Leandro?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I cannot tell you to the exact amount. I get two different reports. I would guess it's between 20 and 25, 26.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Twenty or 25 persons or families?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Persons.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Are Negroes employed in the industries in San Leandro.

MAYOR MALTESTER. Yes.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Do you have any idea how many?

MAYOR MALTESTER. No, I haven't. We haven't asked for that type of a survey, although lean tell by the plants when the shifts go off duty that there are quite a few Negroes employed in our industries.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. We have some statistics, Mr. Mayor, a study we did that indicates that the companies in San Leandro employing 100 or more persons that report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and that report to the office of Federal Contract Compliance, provide approximately 13,500 persons, of whom about 572 are Negroes, about 5 percent or so. Does that sound as though it might be right?

MAYOR MALTESTER. That might be right. I presume that some plants according to the type of work may employ more than others. I wouldn't question that.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. And those are companies of 100 employees or more. Companies with less than 100 employees are not included in those statistics. Are Negroes employed in stores and small businesses in San Leandro?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Yes, they are.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. How would you account for the fact that just across the border of San Leandro in Oakland there are large numbers of Negro families, and yet there are just 20 to 25 Negroes in your city?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Well, basically the question in the past has been one of prejudice. San Leandro grew from a farming community to a bedroom community for people who mainly worked in San Francisco. I guess prior to World War II there were about 20,000 people in the community.
Industry started to come in. Half of our present land area is zoned industrial. I don't think there is any question but what there was prejudice involved.
Although some of the families, Negro people who live in San Leandro, have lived there for many years. We have a very heavy Portuguese, Mexican American, Spanish people living in our community. At the present time the families that are moving in are moving in different areas of the town.
As you just heard Mr. Lucot state that the one property on the Hills at some $75,000 or $80,000. We have other families that moved into the Marina Fair and different areas which, from a personal standpoint is good for everybody, and in other words we don't get any ghetto, or where it's white or dark or anything else. It is spread throughout the community. One other thing that has, I'm sure, kept an awful lot of minority races out has been the cost of property.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. The cost of property?

MAYOR MALTESTER. The cost of property in San Leandro. I do not have facts to back this up. I get this statement from real estate people and appraisers, that the same property on one side of Durant Avenue, which is our dividing line with Oakland is worth $1,000 to $1,500 more than this property is in Oakland. The reason for that, I don't know. One has been that we have had a reduce in tax rate, and we have increased our services to the people. Beyond that I can't say, I'm just guessing.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Do you think that the fact that two cities so close to each other, and one of them has such a large Negro population and the other has such a small one, might lead to friction of some sort?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I'm certain it will some day unless something is done. As I say, it is--I feel something is being done now, but it is being done slowly.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Is the city concerned that racial disturbances in Oakland might affect San Leandro?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I might say as the mayor I'm concerned, yes.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. What actions or plans do you have to deal with the problem?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Well, we haven't any plans to deal with the problem. You must understand that in our community, although the mayor is directly elected by the people, we are a little different than some of the Eastern cities.
We do not have the authority as mayor, I technically do not have any more authority than any city councilman, so it is just a problem as to what you can do. We hope that we are getting, I think, more and more people in our community that realize the problem and are willing to recognize that it is there and help do something about it, but it's an awfully slow process.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Do you have problems in your community with white racists groups?

MAYOR MALTESTER. No. In fact, the only time I knew one existed was a series of articles in a local newspaper.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. But the groups themselves you don't consider terribly significant or a force in molding opinion in the community?

MAYOR MALTESTER. No, I've checked this out with our own police department and they feel that it does not pose any problem at all in the community.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. There has been some testimony about the meeting that you held with business and religious leaders to discuss problems of racial integration in San Leandro. Have there been many such meetings ?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Well, no. That was probably the largest where we've brought industry into the picture and the banks.
I have attended three or four meetings with various clergy groups and I would think that the clergy has been the most interested in the problem in the community, and probably not only the most interested but probably the most knowledgeable as to what does exist.
There have just been unofficial meetings over a cup of coffee talking about the problems as they would see one or the others that would come up.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. But in December you had a meeting which included a larger number of individuals?

MAYOR MALTESTER. That is correct. I was asked if I could get together some of the industrial people to join some of the clergy and the banks. We thought it would be a good thing to sit down and talk to them and just see what they felt.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Has that meeting been followed up with additional similar meetings?

MAYOR MALTESTER. No, it hasn't been. It was left on the basis that see how things are going for a while and then we would get together again unofficially. When you try to get a group together like that, sometimes it takes a little time to get them together. Everybody is busy, but we undoubtedly will have other discussion. That is, if I have my way about it and they show up.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. How long have you lived in San Leandro?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I was born in San Leandro.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. On the basis of your knowledge in general, and on the basis of your experience as mayor what factors in the local real estate market do you think have kept Negroes from buying homes in San Leandro?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I don't think it is the real estate people nor the lending institutions. I think it's the people themselves. I'm quite sure that any real estate man would sell any home in San Leandro to a Negro if the seller of that home gave them the go-ahead.
There is still the fear that if one home is sold to a Negro, the whole block will be sold to Negroes and then the next block. This is a fear, I think--and I am not a historian--which grew up over many, many years which ultimately, I guess it did happen in the West Oakland area. And this, I think is the basis of fear.
I really don't--oh, there may be one or two real estate people, maybe one or two lending institutions, but I think the basic problem is with the people themselves, not only in our community but in any other community,

MR. GLICKSTEIN. But you have had some large tract developments in San Leandro where the homes were sold new by the developer.

MAYOR MALTESTER. Right.

MR. GLICKSTEIN, Not by individual sellers. Yet, those developments have turned out to be predominantly or, exclusively white. Isn't that correct?

MAYOR MALTESTER. It is correct, and yet probably the largest and latest development and the last one from the land standpoint that is available now has three Negro families living in it, and the development is only five or six years old and all of the three--and one I know was sold through the developer of the tract.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. One was sold through the developer of the tract?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Definitely to the Negro.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. That is the Marina

MAYOR MALTESTER. Marina Fair.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. That is a new area that is being developed?

MAYOR MALTESTER, Right.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. How do you account for the older tracts that were developed that were not integrated?

MAYOR. MALTESTER. This, again, I cannot account for except for the fact that I think it goes back to the people themselves. I've talked to apartment house owners that the rest of their tenants have threatened to move out if they rent one apartment to a Negro family. So then who do you blame, the people or the apartment house owner?

MR. GLICKSTEIN. When Negroes have moved into San Leandro how have they been received by their neighbors?

MAYOR MALTESTER.. Normally very fine. We've had one bad incident that you have undoubtedly picked up on us. This happened to be on the most expensive one we were talking about, but it had nothing to do with racial problems, just outright hoodlums, but outside of that they are well accepted.
In fact, I would think exceptionally so. The reports that I get from this Marina Fair area is that the people in the area are happy with these families. They have gone in and fixed up their homes better than they were before and joined the Home Owners Association, become active in the area. This is what I think is tending, as I say, to break down this barrier that is built up, but I don't think it will be broken down politically. It's got to be through people.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. And I gather from what has been said that you as mayor have been exercising some leadership in the direction of breaking these barriers down?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I try as much as possible, in fact maybe a little more than I am supposed to, but it has to be persuasion and on a friendly basis. Yes.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. One of the witnesses said you had proposed to the city council that a human rights commission be set up and you were unsuccessful in getting that through.

MAYOR MALTESTER. I went beyond the human relations commission. I also tacked the word responsibilities in there because this had been proposed right after President Kennedy addressed the United States Congress of Mayors in Honolulu and asked for this type of support throughout the country because I think every city has areas where the property is getting run down, and this is not always Negroes' areas. In fact, most of the time it isn't.
So we wanted not only the human relations commission aspect, we wanted some responsibilities put into it. Unfortunately, the city council decided on a five to two vote that it was not necessary, that we didn't have any problems, and I don't blame the city council because, believe me, when that proposal was put out in the press --before I made the proposal I had six votes, and when the people got through with the telephone calls I wound up with one besides my own.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Informally, then, your fellow councilmen agreed with your position, but when they had to indicate publicly what their position was they voted differently.

MAYOR MALTESTER. That is correct.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. How many persons does your city employ?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Approximately 365.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. How many are Negroes?

MAYOR MALTESTER. One.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. And he is a--

MAYOR MALTESTER. Police officer. We did have two. We had a young lady that was a police assistant, but she decided she would rather work for the telephone company.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Does the city require its employees to be residents?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Yes and no. The rule is, the civil service rule is that all employees must be residents. The civil service board has the right to suspend that rule for all examinations. In checking our records we find it has suspended for all operations except three, they're always putting the rule to one side.
Those three operations that they have not suspended the rule for was a garbage collector, a maintenance man and the parks people, and in checking back and asking the Civil Service Commission why these three were not also allowed to not have to live in the community it is a fact that they class them in three emergency categories. I don't know, this is the answer that I got.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Those three categories have to live in the community?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Right, and the others have to--the examinations are open. In fact, the young Negro police officer we had lived in Berkeley. Now he lives in San Leandro with his family.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. He now lives in San Leandro?

MAYOR MAL TESTER. Right.

MR. GLICKSTEIN, Did he have any difficulty in finding a place to live?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I haven't talked to him. He hasn't said anything to me.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. But he did move into the city?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Yes.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Does the city recruit employees outside the city?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Yes. This is what I was talking about on the recruitment. These are the only three that are supposed to live in the city, The rest of the recruitment comes from all over.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. And actually you make affirmative efforts to go outside of the city? You advertise outside the city?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Yes. It's advertised in all the journals, a notice is sent to the department of employment. We give it a broad advertising effect.

MR. GLICKSTEIN. Thank you. I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN HANNAH. Mrs. Freeman?

COMMISSIONER FREEMAN. Mayor Maltester, does your city attempt to recruit industry, large industry, to come in? Have you ever in the past attempted this?

MAYOR MALTESTER. The city as such hasn't. The Chamber of Commerce is always, of course, working to bring new industry into San Leandro, and this is where our growth assessed valuation wise has come from, new industry over the past years.

COMMISSIONER FREEMAN. Do the majority of the persons who are employed by the industries that have come in in the past few years reside in San Leandro?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I wouldn't know. I would have to say as a guess, no. It's a pretty educated guess.

COMMISSIONER FREEMAN. Would a significant number of those that are white reside in San Leandro?

MAYOR MALTESTER. No. Again, I don't have any figures, but in my opinion no, because we have an awful lot of people that live in San Lorenzo, Hayward, Castro Valley.

I have had people tell me that even working for the city they can't live there because they can't afford it in their own city and they moved to Castro Valley.

COMMISSIONER FREEMAN. And these houses range in price from $18,000 up. Is that right?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Yes.

COMMISSIONER FREEMAN. Let me pose to you a hypothetical question that if a government agency or a government contractor indicated an interest in shelter for its employees and said to you as mayor, the leading official of the city, that, "We cannot come here because there is not a free and open housing market" what would then be your responsibility as the mayor?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Well, I would certainly want to sit down with the contractor or whoever he was and find out what the facts would be, and then sit down with our city council, so I would say that--

COMMISSIONER FREEMAN. Do you think it would make any change with respect to the--and this of course is an estimate-would the council then care enough about having a white-only ghetto to change it?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I would say that as individuals they would, and then when it got out into the newspapers I don't know where they would stand when the heat went on.

COMMISSIONER FREEMAN. I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.

MAYOR MALTESTER. I say that I am sure that as individuals the city council would be interested. I think that our city councilmen still are interested, but I would say that when the people themselves started to protest-

COMMISSIONER FREEMAN. These people, then, are so racist that they would still keep the industry out?

MAYOR MALTESTER. In my opinion if this were the issue, yes,

COMMISSIONER FREEMAN. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HANNAH. Mr. Mayor, there are seven councilmen you say?

MAYOR MALTESTER. Six and the mayor.

CHAIRMAN HANNAH. Are you elected as mayor or as a councilman and then the councilmen elect the mayor?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I'm elected as mayor.

CHAIRMAN HANNAH. You are elected at large?

MAYOR MALTESTER. At large. Following through, we have the six councilmen who represent six districts. They have to live in the district, but they are also elected at large.

CHAIRMAN HANNAH. In your testimony this morning you've indicated that your views with reference to the presence of Negroes in your community is at variance with the views of most of the people that live in the community. When you have run for re-election has this been a handicap to you?

MAYOR MALTESTER. I couldn't say that because in the last election I didn't have any opposition, which was last year.

CHAIRMAN HANNAH. Mr. Taylor?

MR. TAYLOR. No questions.

CHAIRMAN HANNAH. Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. We appreciate your enlightenment, and we hope that you may be able to prevail upon some of your colleagues. Having watched this development in the areas of civil rights all over the country it is as certain as anything can be that a city like San Leandro is going to move in the direction of an orderly acceptance of desirable Negroes and members of other minority groups or face, as you suspect, unhappiness and this myth that has been built up that when good citizens who happen to be black, or Mexicans or something else, move into communities, nothing really happens. There are fine people of all races and colors and religions, and somehow or other we have to get our citizens to recognize that what is important is the individual.
It is basically an educational process and if you and other enlightened leaders can follow along with the attitude that you have expressed here this morning Maybe you can make progress, although it gets discouraging at times.

MAYOR MALTESTER. I hope so. I would like to thank the Commission and would like to make, one statement, if I may, because I have read where the Commission has been criticized, and I would like to say that I think the most important thing that this Commission is doing is to allow the light of day to be put on some of these problems around the country, and I just hope that your job is accomplished along with the rest of us.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at December 30, 2007 3:26 PM | TrackBack
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