As police and Occupy Oakland protesters squared off in front of City Hall this week, organizers of a recall campaign took their first formal steps this week toward an effort to remove Mayor Jean Quan from office.
“The people of Oakland seek to recall Mayor Quan because she has willfully ignored the City’s most pressing issue: public safety,” reads the document, containing 71 signatures, called a “Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition.” Filing this form Monday with the City Clerk was the first official step in initiating the recall process.
Other grievances listed included Quan’s recent support for a “regressive” parcel tax, her “squandering” of an opportunity to shape the direction of development on the Oakland Army Base, and the city’s high unemployment rate.
“After nearly a year in office she has exhibited no leadership or insight to develop and implement a sustainable solution to our growing unemployment and depressed economic development,” the document states. “We have no confidence in her ability to lead, listen or collaborate.”
Accompanying forms filed with the clerk identify Gene Hazzard, a photographer with the Oakland Post newspaper, as the proponent of the recall. Reached on his cell phone, Hazzard said Monday’s filing was “merely the first stage in a long process” to recall Quan, who was in Washington Tuesday and did not return calls seeking comment on the recall effort.
Hazzard acknowledged the existence of an organized group of people leading the recall effort, but he was reluctant to name names. “Everyone is focused on the organizers, but the 71 signatures are the organizers,” he said.
Hazzard, who is African American, said he and the other organizers made a deliberate effort to include people from an array of neighborhoods in the Notice of Intent. Many of the addresses associated with the signatures are in predominantly black areas of East and West Oakland, but others are in largely white or mixed areas such as the Laurel District, Downtown, and the Oakland Hills.
Some notable names in Oakland politics are also listed on the Notice of Intent, including Marlene Sacks, an attorney specializing in education law who has twice sued the city over its alleged misuse of public safety funds; and Nancy Sidebotham, who was a city council candidate in 2010 for District 6 in East Oakland.
“I signed it because this city is in dire straits,” Sidebotham said in a phone interview. “We need someone who’s going to address the issue of crime and work towards bringing businesses to Oakland so we can have a tax base to support the services we need.”
Charles Pine, a frequent commentator on Oakland politics, also signed the petition. “Jean Quan has pushed the failed policies of City Hall to the point of collapse,” Pine wrote in an email. “Public safety is collapsing all around the city, but Quan will not give police staffing the priority it desperately needs.”
Paul Fields, a retired logistics management specialist with FEMA and a native of West Oakland, said he signed the notice in part because of Quan’s failure to maintain a productive relationship with the recently departed Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts in spite of their often troubled relationship. “I think the mayor should have been the bigger of the two people in that situation,” he said. “She should have bridged the gap.”
In addition to working as a photographer for the Oakland Post, Hazzard is a member of the Oakland Black Caucus. On Tuesday, however, the caucus distanced itself from the recall push. “The caucus has not taken a position on the recall effort, and has no current plans to take a position on the recall effort,” the organization said in a statement.
Hazzard himself made it clear that his involvement in the recall effort is independent of the Post as well.
Since Oakland’s municipal code does not have any specific provisions for recalling city officials, the process defaults to state law in this matter. Accordingly, Hazzard and the other recall proponents now have until April 1, 2012—160 days after the Notice of Intent was filed—to collect signatures from ten percent of the city’s 196,000 registered voters and file the petitions with the City Clerk’s office.
But Dave Macdonald, the registrar of voters for Alameda Country, said that simply meeting the ten percent mark would probably not be sufficient. “With any petition, you need many, many more signatures than are required,” he said. “A lot of the signatures can be disqualified.”
Macdonald said that signatures often turn out to be redundant, false, or belonging to people who are not registered voters.
If by April 1, the organizers feel they have a sufficient number of signatures, the petitions will be submitted to the clerk, who will examine a random sample of five percent of the signatures to check their validity. If a sufficient number of signatures are accepted, the clerk will submit the petition to the city council at its next meeting, which will then have 14 days to set a date for a recall election.
Whether or not the recall effort succeeds, the effort has brought negative attention to City Hall during an already tense month for the mayor. Chief Batts announced his resignation at a tense press conference on October 11, citing Quan’s lack of support as one of the reasons for his departure. This Tuesday, the city forcibly evicted hundreds of protesters sympathetic with the Occupy Wall Street movement who were camping on Frank Ogawa Plaza, shortly after Quan had expressed tacit support for the protesters’ cause.
You can read Quan’s complete statement on the Occupy Oakland eviction here.