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Interview: Jean Quan on Failure of Measure I, Occupy Oakland, Snow Park, and Oakland the City

| November 17, 2011
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Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has not had an auspicious five weeks, even her diminishing contingent of supporters would agree. In fact, cataloguing her recent woes is no small task:

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

I actually could go on, but you get the picture…

Journalist Josh Richman recently told KQED’s Scott Shafer that he didn’t know if there’s anything Quan can do to recover. Still, Quan is only one year into a four-year term. Crisis communications consultant Chris Lehane — who knows from political low points (think Monica Lewinsky. He helped manage that scandal in the Clinton White House) — told Scott Shafer last week that Quan can still come back from the Occupy Oakland crisis.

“I think ultimately people in these positions will be evaluated over the long term,” Lehane said. “She’s apologized, which is important, particularly for politicians, who almost never apologize. This situation is so big, there’s going to be little she can do in the day to day. Politicians have to realize you’re not going to immediately come back, they have to have a long-term strategy.

“Given her history, that she came up through community activism, she’s someone who can step up with an interesting policy or program and seize the moment in a positive way.”

Yesterday, KQED’s Joshua Johnson interviewed Quan fresh off her defeat on Measure I, a $60 million parcel tax that would have been used for a range of services related to public safety, city services, and infrastructure needs.

One thing in particular I found interesting about the mayor’s answers, as well as those she gave in a recent national interview with NPR, is how sympathetic she appears to be to the Occupy movement’s goals and even its internal processes, going so far in the NPR segment as to explain in detail the reasoning behind the Occupy Oakland general assembly’s refusal to let her address the encampment. To which All Things Considered correspondent Martin Kaste said, almost incredulously, “but you’re the mayor!”

Here is Joshua Johnson’s interview. A transcript follows the audio.

Audio: Jean Quan on Failure of Measure I, Occupy Oakland, and the City’s Economy

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What are your thoughts on the outcome of the Measure I election?

It’s not surprising. Even the San Francisco tax measures went down. In Oakland we’ve been a little distracted so the people who normally would have been out there campaigning for this didn’t have much time to work for it.

But it means we will not be able to restore some of the services we cut. At the beginning of the year I put out several options, including an all-cuts budget. Luckily the employees of the city gave back 10 %., undertaking for the first time major pension reform relief in the city. Even the police are now paying into their pension.

We could have restored some of the cuts, some full-time senior programs, some road and tree people, some park maintenance people, to add and upgrade our technology at the libraries, which needs constant funding to keep the internet and other services going. And probably most importantly for Oaklanders, it was going to allow us the extra money for police recruitment and training. The baby boomers are retiring and the replacement of police officers are probably the most expensive cost. It costs us about 100k to train and recruit new police officers. With boomers retiring at a higher rate, we really don’t necessarily have enough money right now to keep up with that.

My biggest hope is that the economy in Oakland swings up a bit. We’re hoping to make a couple of good announcements on new projects in Oakland and eventually we’ll be able to cover that.

It seems like all of this has been something of a double whammy. You’ve got the Occupy protesters which scared off some business….

Yes, we had this perfect storm. I think it would have been hard to pass Measure I anyway. But we thought we had to try to give Oaklanders a chance to try to step up. It would have been a quarter a day. Otherwise what we have now is an all-cuts budget. We have the potential loss of a couple of businesses downtown. And a lot of small businesses are really hurting.

And you have the cost of Occupy Oakland, which will probably be several million dollars. Luckily for the first time in many years we have a full reserve and it will mean other things won’t get done in the city unfortunately

Where do you see the opportunity for Oakland to bounce back and keep growing?

Oakland is in the center of the Bay Area and we’re an amazing city. Downtown Oakland is one of the most exciting places in the Bay Area. Just six months ago the New York Times said we have some of the best restaurants in the Bay area. We have a thriving art scene. If you come down on First Friday, you’ll see thousands of people visiting our art galleries and enjoying music and nightclubs downtown.

Oakland was one of the few cities predicted by the Association of Bay Area Governments to continue to grow in jobs and housing over the next decade. I think that’s going to happen.

Unfortunately there’s a national stereotype about Oakland. But it’s one of the most diverse, exciting cities in the country. We’re going to come back.

Do you have any concerns as to Occupy protesters either at Snow Park or a retrenching at Frank Ogawa?

I was very heartened the night we cleared the park that the protesters were very peaceful, that they talked about getting on with the work of the 99%. I’ve been following all the tweets in the different groups; they’re going to start organizing around the school closures in Oakland. I understand there’s going to be some picketing of banks this weekend.

The Snow Park people have till Monday; they have a group of people that have been working really hard to find an alternative place. I hear one of the local churches may be willing to work with them. I think we move on, and it could be a model for the rest of the country.

I think the movement’s gotten diverted on the encampments and across the country they haven’t really been able to contain the crime or the large homeless population and it becomes a whole sap on the resources instead of moving on with the organizing.

In Oakland, our winter shelter opened yesterday so we’re hoping that a large number of the homeless that were staying in Frank Ogawa Plaza will be sheltered there for the rest of the winter.


Have you notified Snow Park that Monday is the day to go?

They made a deal with the police chief. All last week we tried to get people to leave. I myself talked to nine or ten of the tents that were in Frank Ogawa Plaza. The police chief gave them a week to find a permanent home. We expect them to be gone by next Monday.

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Category: News, Politics and Government

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  • Charles

    The interview shows that the gulf between the residents of Oakland and mayor Quan is wider than ever.

    Quan doesn’t understand that lack of public safety is the number one problem. Prattle on about Oakland’s advantages, but Oakland has two to three times the crime of other major California cities. Businesses and their employees will not come here.

    Quan doesn’t understand that endless new parcel taxes on people’s residence are over. This so-called progressive thinks lower middle-income people should pay regressive taxes so that Quan can give grants to her buddy operators of favored social programs.

    Jean Quan has shown she is incompetent to be mayor. To be notified when and where you can sign the recall petition, see
    http://www.orpn.org/MeasureI_swindle2.htm

    • http://artbymungo.com artbymungo

      “Oakland has two to three times the crime of other major California cities” crimes related to poverty, verdad?

  • monica forero

    Jean Quan is too soft on the thugs who terrorize our neighborhood, but then expects that we property owners give her more money! Nancy Nadel is no better! They do nothing to help the middle class. They need to go.

  • http://qualsh.com/blog Chris

    Mayor Quan, although she is trying to cater to both sides, is yet another leader who is so utterly distant from her people. The fact that Measure 1 did not pass is a result of economic oppression upon not only individuals in the U.S., but also the states and cities all across it. Wall Street has deteriorated our economic system so much so, that now even the police will have to pay into their own pensions, when in the past the taxpayers were doing just fine in helping cops retire comfortably. Quan, I’m sorry but the action you approved against the Occupy protestors is a symbol to all voters that you support Wall Street and the 1%, and not the people, and the police of your own city. To send an entire police force in full on riot gear into a peaceful protest is fiscally wasteful. It was you and your police chief’s decision to allocate those resources, when they weren’t even necessary. It was overkill. Why did you do it? Did repairing the park cost more than sending in an army of riot police? Is small business hurt because of protestors, or was it because of the backlash you created when you strong-armed protestors the first time around? I think Measure 1 didn’t pass because the people of your city see you you for who you really are, and that whether or not you have connections to Wall Street, you indirectly support the inequality doctrine of Wall Street, by using protestors as an excuse to explain why police will have to pay their own pensions, and why the city will have to lay off more workers. What a shame.