Originally posted at East Bay Citizen.
By Steven Tavares.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s state of the city highlighted a city hoping to parlay a new sense of economic vitality into alleviating chronic crime, unemployment, academic deficiencies and gentrification.
Thursday night’s annual address is Quan last before she runs for re-election this fall. At times, through the hour-long speech Quan flashed moments of combativeness as she passively slammed a range of opponents and critics from Gov. Jerry Brown, Oakland Athletics co-owner Lew Wolff, San Francisco and Republicans in Washington who once cut the city’s child programs.
However, the focus of the speech, similar to last year’s edition lauded the city’s thriving restaurant scene and potential for dramatic additions to Oakland’s neighborhood housing stock.
“We are booming now and everyone needs to share in the prosperity,” she said.
In a plan unveiled earlier in the day and modeled on former mayor Jerry Brown’s (“maybe our mayor, again, apparently” Quan quipped) largely successful bid to attract 10,000 new residents to the downtown Uptown District, Quan’s would spread the new influx to every neighborhood while aiming to set aside a quarter of the new units for affordable housing.
“In the next round, we want to make sure that same revitalization happen all over Oakland.”
In the next year, Quan believes the city’s undermanned police force could again top 700 officer, granted a pair of police academies successfully graduate new cadets in large numbers. Oakland’s woeful high school graduation rates for minority students also aneed great improvement, said Quan. In addition, she plans to boost the mayor’s summer job program to 2,000.
The debate over gentrification currently occurring in greater relief in San Francisco will not happen in Oakland, Quan said. “When we build something, we don’t have to push people out,” she said, noting the lack of geographical space available in San Francisco to build out for additional housing.
Oakland’s finances are also rebounding from the Great Recession. Quan expects an $18 million budget surplus this fiscal year and a possible boost in the city’s credit rating. “Economically we’ve come a long way and we’ve made it through very tough times,” said Quan.
Unlike a year ago, Quan briefly touched upon Oakland’s tenuous relationship with its three professional sports franchises. Quan reiterated her belief each team will ultimately remain in Oakland along with hopes the Raiders will officially sign-on for a new stadium at the current Coliseum complex sometime this summer. More notably, Quan suggested port property near Jack London Square may be offered in the next month to potential investors interested in building a 38,000-seat waterfront ballpark.
A proposal for a new ballpark at the Coliseum is also in the works, but when members of the audience began applauding news of the alternative downtown site, Quan said, “I know, that’s the favorite site and now Lew Wolff suddenly thinks the Coliseum is great and wants a lease extension, so you can go figure on that.” Last week, Port of Oakland commissioners cleared the way for a potential downtown stadium when it rejected three maritime uses for Howard Terminal.
Much of Thursday’s state of the city will likely set the stage for Quan’s re-election campaign over the next seven months. During Quan’s first three years in the mayor’s office, critics on both sides of the city’s political spectrum have routinely slammed Quan. As a result, her vulnerabilities have attracted five credible challengers and possibly another dozen opponents by the fall. “It’s not an easy job,” said Quan, “but it’s a job you gotta love to do and it’s easy in a city that is so easy to love.”