Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan:The Problem with Being First

Mayor Quan with friends at Chabot event

Mayor Quan with friends at Chabot event


Addendum: After reading this to my daughter, she felt that I should add that she has never heard the “N” word used as much as she has since Obama became president and it seems to me that the pervasiveness of our endemic racism and sexism have been exposed with these firsts-first Black president, first woman-of-color mayor. But should we tolerate the social sickness that often seems about to overwhelm and drown out any progress we thought we’d made?

It’s always tough being a trailblazer. Ask Hilary Clinton or Geraldine Ferraro, oh yeah, all we need to do is remind ourselves that no woman has yet gotten elected to the highest post in our democracy. But we do have some female governors and mayors. Oakland only recently elected its first woman mayor who is also an Asian-American, the tough and resilient Jean Quan.
If you don’t know how tough she is, you probably haven’t met her. You might gather from the frown she gets when she is concentrating on something, that she’s troubled, but you’d probably be wrong. As the newscasters who gathered in front of her house, including a KRON reporter who followed her home after her recent accident and then knocked on the Huen-Quan door at 6:45 in the morning the next day, found out. She greeted the crowd with a smile, saying, “Wow, I hope all of you will be coming to the city budget discussion, too.”
This all happened after she had been hit on the side rear of her city-owned car and spun around in the street, but that was nothing compared to the spin KRON news reporters tried to put on the mayor’s reputation after reporting the other driver’s story first.
I admit, I wasn’t there so I can’t say what happened although there are witnesses who disagree. But having been hit a couple of years ago where the damage to my vehicle made it obvious that I was traveling in my lane while the other driver crossed into me, I know how long the investigative process can take. It was almost a year before I got my deductible back.
However, the fact that some of the news media decreed without any evidence that the mayor had not only blown a red light, she had done it because she was on her cell phone, like the little girl in the Exorcist, my head is still spinning. But what made me almost throw up was the response from some of our “liberal, progressive” folks in the Bay.
[I acknowledge that there is a photo of the mayor talking on her phone while driving and she did get convicted at another point of rolling through a right hand turn, hence not coming to a full stop at the light. So have I-so we must be partners in crime-I guess! The usefulness of red light cameras is in dispute but they are now a fact of life in California that we must all deal with.
However, having a violation on your record does not mean that every time you are in an accident, it should be assumed that you caused it, should it? How fair is that or does fairness have nothing to do with it?]
But what startled me the most were the comments of the folks who posted on KQED’s Facebook page after the incident and some of the other Facebook responses I saw. Now, I know better than to read the online comments to newspaper articles which are invariably written by anonymous angry assholes and not a few racists.
On Facebook, though, I had come to expect a little more reserve if not basic good manners. Did I think we were a bit more concerned about political correctness, that is, not categorizing people or their actions based on stereotypes or bigotry?As an aside, I can’t tell you how many friends made cracks about Asian drivers when they heard….
Perhaps I thought that in the same space where people sign petitions on the correct treatment of wolves and dairy cows, the first Asian-American woman mayor might merit some demonstration of human decency so I was shocked when I read some of the publicly posted commentary there. I will list some of the more egregious comments which were interspersed with others like, “how is this even news” or “I don’t like Quan but come’on, it was an accident.”
Warning, some of this is hard to read for those of us who thought people at least knew better when it comes to the ugliest kind of sexism, the rankest anti-Chinese bigotry or the viciousness of folks who just hate politicians and easily paint them all as corrupt and useless-running for office has become another of those jobs that most Americans think are beneath them, how sad.
After reading these, I felt sick at heart. I started to write this blog but I thought, why bring all this bad stuff back up. Then I talked to my daughter, a young biracial person, who makes her way as a pretty and petite Black woman in the business world, quite successfully, I might add; but not without the experiencing the denigrations that her gender and her race elicit in our world.
She said to me, “I used to think things were getting better for People of Color but now I think they are getting worse. Mom, you’ve got to call them out for their double standard and bullying behavior cause that’s what it is.”
Here’s another point brought up by the responses-on the one hand, most folks believe that the mayor is driven around in style with a police escort, as many city mayors are. On the other hand, they complain that she should not have even a nice car to drive to her many activities. So which is it or do we even care about the facts? Almost everyone in Oakland knows that this mayor is on the go from morning til late at night, weekdays, weekends, and holidays included, and I have never known any other Oakland mayor who did not have a city car and driver.
Both city council members and the mayor get a car allowance; but for the first half of her term, you could see Jean Quan’s little old Prius in the mayor’s spot at city hall. When Mayor Quan started personally bringing groups of investors to our city for projects that she has spearheaded and government agency folks who are working with us, it became obvious that she needed a larger, less-used city car to chauffeur them around with herself of course, as chauffuer.
It’s up to the city council to budget a driver for this busy mayor, but we expect her to do it all. Is this once again because she’s a woman so that multi-tasking, like housework, is the norm expected of her along with having the smallest mayoral staff of any recent mayor?!
Back to the comments, I am going to list some of the ones that astonished me along with a few that were milder with the names as posted since the comments were known to be public at the time and are still up.
I want you to tell me how some of these are anything but hateful and painful to those of us who either share our mayor’s gender or racial characteristics or just care about common decency and civility. Does being a public official mean all bets are off?
Here are a few of the “choice” comments on the KQED facebook page-

John Orrock: Busted bitch
Mike Silveira: cant stand this bitch…..
Richard Ponce Jr. Lier!
Juan Manuel Quiros Raffo: China pendeja!!
Victoria Lambino: Uhhh, she’s in trouble now!
Eduardo Lara: sum ting wong! lol !
Cindy Merical Cano: Fire her lying ass.
Michael Giluso: I’m more concerned that she has a Government Issued Lexus SUV. Isn’t a Honda Accord sufficient?
Carlos Nochez, JR.: If there ever was a woman worthy of the term “cunt” Jean Quan is it.
Michael Manjarrez: Get over it people, seriously.
Patricia Garlitos: Looks just as Guilty as all the other drivers who do this.
Hmm maybe the shot was taken After the incident – who in their right mind would catch this action shot.
Michael Giluso: I had that same model, 2010 Lexus SUV 450H Hybrid and I can say, it has STANDARD bluetooth. She’s probably too stupid to figure out how to set it up.
Eileen McSorley: What a loser.
Fernando Monterey: Of course everyone is lying. She said she was not on the phone, so you are all lying! (If senator McCain can say it why not her)
Misty Gandee: i dont know that much about her but she seems unfazed by her bad behavour& to the person whining abour ppl speaking their mind, grow up

No, Ms. Gandee, I don’t think I want to grow up if it means accepting this kind of bad behavior.

6 thoughts on “Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan:The Problem with Being First

  1. I was talking to my sister in Montana about this last night, and without even knowing the details, her immediate reaction was “That poor woman. I bet, as the first woman mayor, they just rip her up.” I am in great admiration for how Mayor Quan rises above the viciousness.

  2. I received a similar red Light ticket! I didn’t see the “No Turn on Red” sign until after I was half way through the intersection… I say ” Those without sin can cast the first stone”. We have all been there..

  3. Quan isn’t the first and that’s not her and our problem.

    Dozens of minority mayors of U.S. cities as early as the 1920s. Black woman mayors. Even a major city like Milwaukee in recent decades. Not even the first Asian female mayor. Yup the first Asian female mayor of Oaktown.

    But Quan was elected without a mandate. Won election by a significantly small plurality in some confusion due to newly-instituted instant runoff system.

    Unpopular probably largely due to lack of leadership skills, inability to speak intelligently in public and pervasive confusion about facts important to the public.

    Inability to get along with highly-respected city hall appointees like Administrators Santana and Blackwell and Police Chief Batts.

    Inability to deal with complex problems like crime prevention.

    Inability to pull a strongly-divided community together.

    Inability to manage even within the confines of city hall. City hall workers speak of “Quanfusion.”

    Yes to an uniformed and provincial mind Quan may be as good as it gets. I don’t think this is the case with most of Oakland. I would be very surprised if Quan is reelected.

  4. I am so glad you wrote this. I am a great admirer of hers and her devotion to Oakland (I get her emails and I live in Berkeley.)

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