Oakland's Mayor-elect Jean Quan rolls up her sleeves, prepares for new position
Now that the glow from her mayoral election win has faded
(along with the Twitter and parking
tickets snafus), Jean Quan is getting down to business. And that means
tackling Oakland's biggest problem - its finances.
"I hope to have a budget done by the end of March, which is two months earlier than
usual, so that there will be more community discussion," Quan
said in a recent interview with Oakland Local.
Besides meeting with department heads, Quan, who served two
terms as a City Councilmember, said she will work closely with the Council.
"I'm hoping to have a retreat with City Council at the same
time I hope to have a budget," she said.
Quan said that under her administration, the city will work
to find creative solutions to meeting local needs.
"I think we're going
to do some things differently, and I think we'll have to prioritize some
(government services)," she said. "So, I don't see us shedding any libraries or any rec
centers, but I may have to use different ways of keeping them open."
Quan said she hopes more residents will take part in helping
Oakland during this financial crisis.
"That's how some
things will get done," she said. "We need people taking ownership, people
taking pride. Because we don't have a lot of money and we're not going to have
a lot of money for a while."
Quan is also keen to bring in new businesses to help
"One of my top priorities will be to bring in new retail,"
she said. "We lose about anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion in retail
sales, which translates to anywhere between $10 million to $15 million in
Quan said bringing in this business will be important
for the city's budget and she is hopeful that with a combination of new retail
dollars, continuing the furlough program for city workers and combining the
work of a few city departments, she can close the budget gap.
"Doing this and balancing the budget doesn't mean things
will be wonderful, but it means that things won't be worse," she said.
As far as bringing in a new city manager, Quan said the
process is taking a lot longer than expected.
"It's been slow and ponderous," she said. "If I'd known I
was going to win for sure, I would have started this process earlier."
Quan said if the process continues to be slow, she'll
consider appointing an interim city manager.
Another area where Quan said she will focus is the police
pension. As of late, Quan has not had the best relationship with OPD.
During the Oscar Grant demonstrations in July, Quan, along
with City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, got into a
scuffle with Oakland police as they stood in solidarity with peaceful
demonstrators. In addition, the police union focused
on Quan during the debate over pension plan.
But, the mayor-elect recently has had dinner with members of the Oakland
police union and she plans to offer a counter proposal on the police pension
issue, if the City Council agrees.
Creating an open door for the media also is a top priority for
"We decided we would have weekly briefings with the media,
the way Gavin Newsom does. And we're going to try to get (the media) my
schedule so that you guys will know where I'll be."
Overall, the transition has been a whirlwind for Quan. She
said that the first 10 days after the election, she spent about 50 percent of
her time speaking to the media about her win.
"It was a story because it was about rank-choice voting
because I'm the first Asian American and because no one thought I would beat
Don Perata," she said.
Quan said her diverse, 24-person transition team has been of great assistance in her preparing for her new role.
"It's been very interesting," she said. "They've come up
with some real concrete ideas that are going to be helpful."
Imani who sits on the transition team said the city will need Quan's energy
and fighting spirit as it grapples with one of its worse economic periods in
"Oakland is in a real dire financial situation," said Imani,
the director of the Ella Baker Center. "It's going to take a solid plan to
steer the city out of this storm."
Imani said the transition team is having frank and
thoughtful conversations about the budget and the priorities the mayor must
"Cuts are important," he said. "But we just can't shut the
city down. There are too many people that depend on it for safe streets, clean
streets, jobs and other services."
Stay tuned for Tuesday's story in which OL
contributing editor Jennifer Inez Ward gets personal with Mayor-elect
Jean Quan and talks with her about life outside City Hall.