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Jean Quan “Corrects the Public Record” on Keeping Port Open

| December 28, 2011
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Jean Quan (Brendan Sallow/Getty)

The Port of Oakland, you may recall, was shut down in November during the Occupy Oakland general strike, and also briefly a couple of weeks ago during another protest. Last week, after the Oakland City Council tabled a resolution calling for a hardline approach to keeping the port open, Mayor Jean Quan caused a bit of a stir when she seemed to throw up her hands on the issue in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said Wednesday that the city probably would be unable to stop future Occupy demonstrations from shutting down the Port of Oakland and that attempting to do so would require at least 500 police officers, which the city would deploy if the port paid the $1.5 million cost.

In a meeting with Chronicle editors, Quan said that even with that many officers, a handful of protesters could sneak around police lines and shut down the port.

“I don’t know what you know about the port, but with the longshoremen it only takes one person with a bike getting through a fence and getting to the gate. Then they (stop working) and call a mediator,” the mayor said.

That sounded a bit defeatist to some, like the Chronicle editorial page, which wrote the next day:

One of a mayor’s most critical roles is to set the tone for a city. Which brings us to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and her oddly passive acceptance of the prospect that just “one person with a bike getting through a fence” could shut down the city’s engine of commerce, the Port of Oakland.

Equally puzzling was Quan’s assessment of what it would take to keep the port open against a future demonstration: At least 500 officers would need to be deployed – “and if the port wants to pay for that, we can do that,” she said. On top of that, the mayor told Chronicle editors in a meeting Wednesday that it was “absolutely” impossible to promise that the port could be kept open in future protests.

What a dispiriting message to send businesses that depend on the port for shipping and receiving of goods.

Comments by Chronicle readers were not half so kind. Here’s one that seems to represent the general tone:

“My jaw dropped when I read this. Can Quan be more clueless?”

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown, one of Quan’s predecessors as Oakland mayor, offered little support when asked about the port issue at a press conference.

“There are the resources under mutual aid,” he said. “There are resources in Oakland – with some leadership and some imagination not only can they keep the port open, but they should keep the port open.”

When Brown, who maintains a home in Oakland, was asked how he would vote if a Quan recall measure were to make it to the ballot, he said, “that’s why we have a secret ballot election. But…I meet with her from time to time, so I don’t want to send messages from Sacramento. I’ll deliver them in person.”

Apparently, the mayor or someone in her camp decided it was time for a little damage control. Yesterday evening, Quan’s office sent out a statement “Correcting the Public Record on Keeping the Port of Oakland Open,” in which she says, “we can keep the port open.”

The full statement:

Due to the stories regarding the Mayor’s comments about the Port we are releasing a statement to correct the public record. Mayor Quan was the first elected official to speak out publically (sic) about the importance of keeping the Port open prior to the December 12 demonstrations. (See Open letter to Occupy Protesters December 11 2011.)

The Port and City worked together effectively to minimize disruptions to Port operations on December 12. The Mayor’s stance on keeping the Port open has not changed. The following statement corrects the public record on keeping the Port of Oakland open.

“We can keep the Port open. I was providing background on how complex and costly it can be to do so. The City and Port are committed to working closely together to keep this economic engine for the region open. The real issue is about jobs—the 73,000 blue collar workers and farmworkers throughout the region who depend on the Port for their paycheck and the rest of the City businesses that rely on shipments through the Port for their success.”

“During the last demonstration, the Port of Oakland agreed to pay for a portion of the cost of police services, and my comment was in reference to that. If another demonstration is planned, the City and Port would meet again to discuss the costs and how they would be shared between the Port and the City.”

Jean Quan
Mayor of Oakland

Sue Piper
Special Assistant to the Mayor

All right. Now maybe the mayor can address her statement that she subscribes to the New York Times print edition, but only reads the Oakland Tribune and Chronicle online

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  • Charles

    Now, Mayor Quan, perhaps you could explain your statement that it would cost $1.5 million to provide 500 police for a day’s work at a Port demonstration. That’s $3,000 per officer!

  • Mvwc

    Mayor Quan is useless and needs to be recalled.