Gearing up for next week’s anniversary of 100 days in office, Mayor Jean Quan spoke to the press on Thursday about her accomplishments and hopes for the upcoming months. “It seems like its gone very fast,” she said. “We’ve worked very hard to launch Oakland in a new footing.”
One of Quan’s focal points over the last three months has been to be a visible mayor and available to the public. She said she has attended 20 to 30 community events every week, spoken at local and regional business meetings, and was interviewed on PBS’s News Hour with Jim Lehrer. “People are taking a second look at Oakland,” she said at the press conference, “and that was one of our goals.”
Quan also spoke about her collaboration with Oakland Unified School District and the Oakland Police Department. The mayor has worked with OUSD to initiate a program, to begin later this month, that will keep some schools, recreation centers and libraries open late on Friday and Saturday nights. These are the days that have the highest incidence of student homicide, she said, and keeping the facilities open later will give students a safe space to hang out.
Quan’s work with the OPD includes highlighting three neighborhoods with the highest crime rate—West Oakland, Havenscourt and Elmhurst. The mayor’s office and the OPD are collaborating with neighborhood councils, schools, merchants and local residents to provide summer employment for youth, give parenting classes, do neighborhood clean-ups and open health centers in these areas.
The budget was another topic the mayor addressed. “We have been working very hard everyday to establish a flat baseline for the budget,” she said. A deficit of $46 million is expected for 2011-2012, but Quan said that it could actually be much worse because of state and federal budget actions. Federal cuts may total another $7-8 million, she said, and it’s uncertain if the state will be able to provide the city with any redevelopment money. As a consequence, there might be city staff and department reductions, consolidation of certain facilities including libraries, recreation centers and senior centers, increased fees for certain services and land sales. “These cuts are going to be pretty painful,” Quan said.
During the press conference, Quan did not speak about the possible departure of City Attorney John Russo, who is rumored to have been selected as the new city manager for the city of Alameda, or the near-departure of Police Chief Anthony Batts, who was one of two finalists for San José’s police chief job earlier this year.
However, a reporter asked her to respond to criticism from City Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente that she has been unable to make hard decisions as mayor, especially regarding the budget. “That’s probably not very fair,” Quan replied. “There is no doubt that I’ll have a finished budget by the end of April.”
Quan also spoke about her goals for the future, one of which includes supporting earthquake safety bill AB 184 and working to get it passed in California. State assembly member Sandre Swanson is spearheading this bill, which would allow cities to create funds to help homeowners pay for seismically safe retrofits of their homes.
“As you know with the events in Japan, we too live on a major fault,” Quan said. “We have been working on ways for people to fund their retrofits.” Throughout the city, 1,500 buildings have been identified as especially vulnerable to collapse during a major earthquake, Quan said. “It’s like our Katrina,” Quan said. “We know there’s a certain number of buildings in the city that can be retrofitted.”
The Oakland City Council and Mayor Quan will be holding a day-long public meeting to discuss the budget on Monday, April 11 at 9:00 am at Joaquin Miller Community Center.