I Am an An Occupy Oakland Survivor & I am Voting to Reelect Mayor Jean Quan-Guest Blog by Joy Newhart

To my Friends and former Occupiers, please forward this letter,

I am an Occupy Oakland Survivor. I regularly attended the meetings, even caught a cold sitting for long hours on the chilled cement stairs listening to debates about the use of a “diversity of tactics.” I brought food, blankets, and refreshments to the residents of the Tent City, and I attended a huge rally at Laney College that Mayor Quan spoke at supporting the Occupy movement. Then only days later at 4am I got a phone call from a friend telling me the raid was starting.

Armed with my video camera I stood on the front lines as we, the unarmed citizens, watched hundreds of police from all over the region arrive in full riot gear ready for a fight. I was not arrested and managed to avoid the teargas, but I was furious-the friend who called me at 4am still is. Only a few days earlier the mayor and several other city council members had said they supported Occupy. Now people were getting beat up. I blamed Mayor Quan and-though I had voted for her- when I was later asked to help fight the recall I declined. One word “Occupy.”

[Editor’s note: the attempted recall was initiated before the Occupy Oakland eviction by parties who objected to a port commission change and the lack of funding for hundreds more police. It was a combination of more conservative groups who ironically, called for more development at the Oakland Army Base, which Mayor Quan has moved forward. It was not connected with events at Occupy Oakland.]

Then I saw that Mayor Quan was just as furious as I was that Police Chief Jordan had authorized the use of tear gas while she was in the air and out of reach-returning from a trip to D.C. to secure funds for port development. This needs to be re-stated-Chief Jordan authorized the use of tear gas without first getting approval from his boss, and as soon as she landed she ordered the tear gas stopped, but the damage had been done. She ordered an investigation into the department’s actions. This is the first thing Mayor Quan did to “fix the problem.”

The next thing she did had never happened in the history of the Oakland Police Department. Forty four police officers were either fired or disciplined. She made these 44 officers suffer the consequences of their illegal behavior. This is why the Oakland Police Department is resentful and will not endorse Mayor Quan.

Finally, she replaced those officers with recruits trained in the many new police academies she has funded. These new officers reflect the diversity and values of Oakland. I am a West Oakland resident and proud that the new captain of the West Oakland district was raised in West Oakland and is the first woman commander in the department.

The next thing she did was meet with the federal regulator overseeing the federally mandated police reforms, as neither Jerry Brown nor Ron Dellums had bothered to do. She re-invigorated the community policing reorganization model that previous mayors had allowed to stagnate. In many ways these two previous mayors hold a lot of the responsibility for what happened with Occupy because they did not focus on implementing these mandated reforms.

The next thing Mayor Quan did was select Police Chief Whent to head the Oakland Police Department. Prior to Chief Whent’s appointment as chief he was the supervisor of the Internal Affairs Division. Chief Whent was in charge of policing the police and with that background and experience, who better to rebuild the department?

As a result of these reforms and others, violent crime is down over 30% across the city and murders are down almost 50% from 2012. While violent crime is down all over, the decrease is greater in Oakland than other cities.

This is why I am voting for Mayor Quan. She analyzed the problems with the Oakland Police Department and addressed them at their root. She approaches this city’s problems from a socio-economic perspective, not a Law & Order perspective and she’s done all this with four balanced budgets.

You can’t argue with success.

Sincerely, Joy Newhart

Allan Brill-Why I am Voting for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan-Guest Blog

Long time community and political activist Allan Brill wrote this to his neighborhood listserve.

Dear Friends,

It upsets me that some candidates are filling up the list-serves attempting to position themselves as “The Effective Law and Order Candidate for Mayor.” So I will address this important issue now.

When the muggings and burglaries were up in our neighborhood during her first 2 years, Mayor Quan was the target (mostly from a few outspoken folks who have always been against her). Now that the Mayor’s police reform, academies cranking out new officers from Oakland, successful youth employment/after school programs, community engagement initiatives, and various targeted crime prevention programs including Operation Ceasefire have substantially reduced violent crime (shootings down 19%, murders down 30 % in one year), residential burglaries (down 32% in one year), robberies (down 37% in one year), etc., these same neighbors can’t give credit where it is due.

I’ve had strong differences with Mayor Quan on a number of issues, and have organized against some initiatives where I thought the policy was off base.

Yet during my 30 years in this neighborhood, I’ve watched the performance of many politicians. Where were the critics when the Mayor Brown/Libby Schaaf team had 148 murders in one year (2006) of the Brown team’s administration, giving Oakland the rep as the world’s murder capitol? What about Brown/Schaaf not doing much of anything to meet the police reform court ordered directives poising Oakland PD for federal receivership (they left us with 22 ignored items decreed by the courts!). Now Quan’s reformed PD needs only 5 more changes completed, and at this point rogue police shootings hardly ever happen. Casting that Brown era, with Libby Schaaf as the administrator of his programs, as the “good old days” lacks historical perspective and common sense, IMHO. So check out this short youtube piece for more facts:

Quan’s programs will result in less than half of those 148 lives lost this year, and we see the resultant benefits to our neighborhoods from the dramatic crime drop in all areas. Yet some politicians and their minions are demanding “a change in leadership and a new direction”. Noel Gallo, our premier “law and order” City Councilmember, strongly supports and is actively campaigning for Quan precisely because of her initiatives in this area that are paying off big time in his home neighborhoods. Our OUSD School Board Member Rosie Torres sees the impact in our schools, and is also campaigning for the Mayor and her programs.

Take 2 minutes and check out this link, but please wait until the first video replays and the second video comes up:

Now it’s your turn to decide.

Allan on Townsend

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.

I Call BS what it is-Bullshit!

I just read a phony attack on Oakland’s mayor that is billed as a new feature in the San Francisco Chronicle, “We Call BS” by Carla Marinucci. First of all, attacking Oakland from every angle and particularly its first woman, grassroots mayor is certainly nothing new for the Chron. It’s just everyday sport for them, not journalism, that is, but sport.

What’s really shocking to me is that a well-respected political reporter, a woman reporter,too, would reach into that old bag of tricks the Chron columnists love to use-stereotypes of Oakland-crime center of the world, little sister to the grand old dame, San Francisco, that quaint museum of a city across the Bay.

Maybe they’re afraid that if tourists find out we have a functioning Chinatown where people live and work, rather than that kitchy souvenir center that is all that is left of the old vibrant Chinatown, or a thriving Latino district that runs from Deep East to the Fruitvale, all the way to East Lake, where instead of hipster boutiques there are still taco trucks, wedding shops, and restaurants representing a wide array of cultures, not to mention, Uptown, Temescal, and the Grand Lake where some of the best cultural-fusion eating establishments-Asian, Black, Latino, Ethiopian,etc. can be found; AND we have a fun bar scene now-no need to worry about the bridge to SF. Why bother to go?

Back to the “Politics Blog, We call BS.” It should be renamed. BS R Us, no real politics here. This investigative piece contacted the White House, oh yeah they did, and found that that contrary to what the mayor said, she did indeed talk to the president and the attorney general. The president met with 18 mayors of cities with rising crime rates amongst its youth. Did she say she had an intimate chat with the prez? No, of course, not but Obama did show up and listen to all the mayors problems and solutions.

This is somehow BS. This is name dropping that she said she met with the President of the United States. Well, in fact she did and after the president left, they talked with the attorney general and his office, probably a total of hours. I very much doubt these folks invited mayors from all over the country to come to DC for a very brief chat.

As to the namedropping accusation, in what world does a mayor get to meet with the president who got his folks to invite her among other mayors, whom he sought out for their input, and she keeps it a secret?? If Jerry had been there instead of Jean, it would’ve been all, oooh, what did he say, and what was it like?

But our diminutive Jean Quan, the upstart woman who “stole” the spot from a bonafide big wheel Democrat, dare not brag, unbecoming to a woman. Is it particularly unbecoming, unseemly even, because she is an Asian woman? Oops, I better not imply that or I will get attacked by the folks who generally expect to be invited to certain places and take umbrage when the wrong folks are invited instead.

What did she get, what was the quid pro quo for her trip? Ms. Marinucci is a political reporter, no? Has she heard a little bit about the difficulty President Obama is in with a Congress who thinks he also doesn’t belong and won’t give him the time of day? Most of us wouldn’t be surprised, knowing the state of national politics, if he can’t get his hands on the funds we need to competently police our city, much less blame that on the Mayor….

So now that the BS calling columnists think they’ve got her down (guess they don’t know Jean Quan), they try for a kick to the head. Oh yeah, do you know the taxpayers footed this bill? Really, how horrible, inexcusable. Maybe she should’ve turned down an invitation to the White House, an invitation to talk about crime, crime folks; because some reporters think it’s a “jaunt.” I call crazy, sorry, that’s just crazy talk.

Wow, the final blow was Quan’s nerviness to remind folks at the fast food workers’ demonstration about the Civil Rights struggle and compare it with current struggles; and so the reporter says, for that the crowd turned on her. Watch the video, a couple of obnoxious people who have a bone to pick, heckled her and ignored the workers and their organizations to make their points. I saw one White guy who thought he was the most important person there yelling at her-but no BS on him, I guess.

So let me get this straight. The mayor was wrong to go to DC or should have waited until she could raise the funds privately, then wrong to talk about it, and especially wrong to believe that the President will do all he can to help our struggling cities. She further erred by recognizing the new generation that is fighting for their rights, economic and civic?

Is that true or is that just BS? Well, let’s call it what it really is, I call Bullshit!

100 Blocks, Violence Prevention, and the Media, What Do We Know?

I started out to write a blog about the Mayor’s 100 Blocks Initiative last week after attending a presentation by Reygan Harmon, the mayor’s public safety aide, at the Allen Temple Baptist Church. I thought the story was how welcomed this initiative was in a neighborhood severely impacted by gun violence.

Now the issue seems to be, the press strategy the mayor’s office used and why that has fueled the media onslaught against it. If you don’t explain something well or completely the first time, the press will explain it their way even if it’s completely off the mark.

First off, every plan has flaws, but if that plan is not etched in stone (and this one has not been legislated) that means it can be adapted to current conditions either by subtly tweaking it or by broadly revamping it so long as the underlying theory works.

What is the underlying theory of the 100 Blocks Initiative? It is that 1) most of the violence that happens in this city usually happens in certain neighborhoods, 2) most of the resulting death and disability usually happens to certain groups of people, and 3) there are limited resources to stem this violence.

But beyond that, there is a broader question we as a community have to answer. It is-if you are not part of the group or neighborhood most impacted-do you care if we focus our already existing but limited resources- on that problem? Well, do you?

I live in a “safe” neighborhood. I leave my front door open during the day when it is warm and I don’t fear going for a walk-day or night. Yes, it’s true that there’s been a spate of burglaries on my street. I now take precautions when I leave my house, and I try to be aware of my surroundings when I walk. Of course, I know a few people who have been robbed. But do I know many people who have been murdered? Only a couple, and none of them look like me. But my children do look like those folks so I am deeply affected by that.

If you live in a neighborhood which never expected to be impacted by crime, much less violence-when I say violence I am defining it as death or disability, not intimidation-you might be excused for being shocked when any kind of crime touches you. After all, having someone come into your house and take your belongings is a violation of your space and almost, of your person, almost.

But, we as Oaklanders have learned to tolerate the fact that many neighborhoods in our community are regularly violated and that early death is a part of their everyday lives. During the town halls following the mayoral election we said that it was not okay. We said-stop the violence! At a minimum, we believed it harmed our image and our ability to bring in capital. At our most generous, we believed that the destruction was terribly wrong.

Since then two things happened that made us clamor for quick solutions. On the one hand, 3 little children were murdered; on the other property crime and physical intimidation have grown while our police force has shrunk.

At that point, some people who knew very little about how the city is run and even less about the 100 Block Initiative, assumed that the people in the neighborhoods most impacted by violence were getting the services that they, in the safer neighborhoods, were beginning to need.

How did the mayor’s administration approach this concern? Well, I have to say, it fumbled it. It didn’t address it on a visceral level but did shift the Problem Solving Officers back to their original beats. But that was the way the PSO’s were always supposed to be used, deployed where and when needed.

Mayor Quan and her staff have been offering to make presentations on the 100 Block Initiative but that has only reached a small audience. Does any of this remind you of how the Obama administration rolled out their ground breaking healthcare plan?

The mayor and the administration (including OPD and Ms. Santana’s office) could have said, “Look folks, it’s obvious, the same police beats-neighborhoods-have experienced gun violence at a high level for many years. And, we have limited resources to impact them so we are picking the worst ones first,” and simply added “We have lots of already funded law enforcement agencies (federal, state and county) that are working these same neighborhoods because of the ongoing violence, so we’re going to coordinate with them. And, we’ll focus our existing social services in those neighborhoods, and we’ll make sure that our public works department does their job in the areas where dumping is most likely to occur,” because that’s it in a nutshell.

How did the 100 Blocks nomenclature come about? I don’t know but even the Urban Strategies Council study says that about 20% of our extreme gun violence occurs in those blocks and that the blocks surrounding them encompasses at least 50% of it. The USC study uses slightly older data so it may be that it has moved around a bit since then or become more concentrated.

Interestingly, the City had contracted with USC to map out the areas of the police beats with the most stressors, stressors that usually predict violence, when it began to design the Initiative [Creating Promise Neighborhoods Planning Group, March, 2010].

I also know that Chief Batts quit the week that he and Mayor Quan were to unveil the strategy so he clearly had something to do with it [as an aside, if you want to see a good PR strategy, watch Anthony Batts, he’s a master at that, policing- not so much]. I think 100 blocks or 500 hundred, which may have been a better number, sounds like a lot to many of us, so we didn’t really think about it too much.

But we know it only takes a few very destructive people in a small area to create havoc, and the violence is often centered in a few blocks around those dangerous people who actually do the shooting. Those blocks and neighborhoods can rotate, but they remain fairly constant. It’s common sense. Certain parts of West Oakland, a few areas in central Oakland and whole swathes of East Oakland are affected.

But not everyone within those areas, not even the poorest or most chaotic of those blocks, is a violent criminal, far from it. So, maybe the title should be “the 100 blocks where most of the shooting starts even though it shifts between them or the shooting itself takes place somewhere else.” I don’t know-do you like that title, catchey, huh?

So now back to the bottom line of this initiative, put together by the mayor’s staff, the police department, and other agencies and fueled by the demands of residents-it took a pragmatic approach using existing resources and up-to-date data from various intelligence sources; and focused a myriad of services and law enforcement on an area that has always been acknowledged as the most dangerous neighborhoods-beats, blocks, whatever- in the city.

Is it working yet? Don’t know, is it too soon to tell, common sense tells me it is, and neither stats from either the USC or the mayor’s office will convince me that we know much yet. Having heard Reygan Harmon’s presentation 3 times, it seems inherently sensible, multi-pronged, and adaptable to most neighborhoods and conditions, tweakable by new data and ideas, just another way to say it is a common-sense, coordinated, “not rocket science,” (Reygan Harmon quote) approach to an obvious, well-known, decades-old problem.

The Reverend J. Alfred Smith Jr. at his community forum stated, “if a plan has shortcomings…it’s our job to work on it..but we don’t stop,“ and that, “This is a plan I support unequivocally.”

I have a friend who lives in Deep East who called me and said that he was worried that the mayor’s awkward press on this might stymie a strategy that has already made a difference in his neighborhood. He is afraid that city politics might kill what his neighbors need. I hope not.

Occupy Oakland and Me, Breakin’ up is Hard to do.

Occupy Oakland took over the council meeting again last night and railed at our city government which  was in the middle of grappling with a huge state takeback that threatens many of our jobs and our future economic development. Funny, I can still remember when the Occupy movement gave us all hope and breathed fresh air into our stagnant political environment.

Not so anymore, at least here in Oakland. If you ask most city residents what OO is doing, they’ll say, don’t know, don’t care. If you ask Oakland’s progressive community with a long time history of struggling for civil rights, civil liberties, economic justice, and democracy with a small “d”, what do you say?

I say it’s time to stop besmirching our movement. It’s time to stop threatening our city. It’s time to stop having tantrums in or around our city hall. For me, it’s also time to stop ignoring my democratic choice to pick my city council and my mayor.

While we’re at it, can you really be encouraging and celebrating the-as another Oaklander put it- testosterone-fueled stalking of our first woman mayor? Can you really be wreaking havoc, or hoping to-if you had the damned numbers-in Chinatown every Saturday night-oh-especially during New Year’s celebrations?

Wait…I almost laughed when you valiantly challenged the city council to call off the cops to save money during the Fuck the Police marches. Really, isn’t that the point? You’re making the damn revolution playing tag with the OPD every Saturday night, vandalizing businesses, encouraging arson, and you want the city to call off the cops so you can do that unencumbered?! But I didn’t laugh cause I was just too pissed off.

Listening to our president the other night, I reminded myself that he probably wouldn’t have been able to issue a populist (to the extent he did) challenge to the Republicans without the burgeoning resistance that Occupy Wall Street represented. I will always be grateful to all the folks who took time out from their own private struggle, who unleashed their creativity to form flash mobs, paint signs, write skits, and ultimately, to risk arrest and injury to bring us to our senses and out onto the streets.

But like first love, we were all on our best behavior then as we moved as one down the overpass to the port one glorious summer (California summer, that is, November) evening. Even then, we were deluding ourselves as young lovers often do.

What was the reason for shutting down our port? Was it the workers in Longview, the truckers without contracts, or a reaction to the horrendous police repression? Reaction only works for so long as motivation. Trying to make us believe that every interaction with the city and even OPD was brutal is like trying to convince us that our only love can never be wrong.

One quote I remember well as I stood with a group of peacekeepers the morning of the second eviction was an astonished, “I’ve never had such a positive interaction with the police.” So the brutal second eviction, just another lie we tell each other to keep the love from dying.

Have the police harassed protestors and arrested them for trivialities? I believe they have. Sadly, we will all pay for that harassment, and we are sickened by our police force’s inability to see the need to change its relationship to our citizens (residents=citizens). Do we think these little hissy fits in our streets will fix that? Come’on.

Before I fall out of love altogether with a movement that was supposed to represent all of us, please stop issuing threats to close down our port or our city hall. Remember, threats can’t make me love you again. They can only make me flee your touch.

Mayor Jean Quan:Embattled or Fighting for Oakland?

Mayor Quan with friends at Chabot event

It’s an old cliché that almost everyone who writes about Oakland feels they must use. You know, it’s a gritty city. The latest one was the New York Times article that touted our new restaurants, which are great, don’t get me wrong. But the writer still felt he had to refer to our “grit.” I’ve never quite figured out what that means-is there sand in your sheets whenever you stay here? Do you get stuff in your eyes walking around our beautiful lake? By the way, which one, we have two and there is some sand involved in both.

Ok, so the new cliché is to describe our mayor as embattled or besieged. I checked google for some of the adjectives used to describe Ms. Quan and discovered that this is not an unusual way to describe a mayor. There were at least seven other mayors so depicted on the first page.

My question is how did this get to be the cliché of choice for our new mayor? Is it a result of the constant string of sexist and racist insults on her facebook page, no matter the subject? Or did it arise from the heckling she received at the Commonwealth Club? How about the three rude people on Grand Avenue when she showed up to promote that shopping district? I know this mayor has encountered unforeseen problems, unforeseen even given the worst economy since the Great Depression (so what is this-the Not-so-Great Depression?)

But, I didn’t see an embattled mayor at the Chabot Space and Science Center on Saturday night (January 7th) nor did the 400 or so Oaklanders and their families who attended the holiday party there. In fact the Mayor seemed to be floating in a red dress among her happy constituents, neighbors and friends, her face glowing, her enjoyment obvious. Before the event, her annual one, she and her husband Floyd cooked for hours for the giant potluck. The crowd was a potpourri of Oakland and the world around it, meeting and greeting each other along with their mayor and her family.

I didn’t see an embattled mayor on Friday afternoon among a crowd of hard working men and women of the Laborers’ Local 304 who told her, “We’ve got your back.” She exudes the same earnest concern as she knocks on doors in the Elmhurst asking neighbors if they know when their Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council meets and handing out meeting notices and other info about city services. She chats with the kids who can’t believe the mayor has come to their neighborhood, much less their homes.

Many folks never even meet their council members in their districts, and I don’t remember any former mayors who have stood on the doorsteps of their constituents responding personally to their questions. Is this the sign of an embattled politician, hardly? This is, rather, a mayor unafraid to bring her ideas to the folks most affected by them.

I have seen this mayor grow into her job like she was born for it. And, indeed, more than any previous mayor I have known, she has almost grown up preparing to be mayor from her poor beginnings in a neighboring suburb where the library was her solace to her years as an active public school parent, school board director, and district council person.  She has learned about Oakland the way only a true grassroots activist could.

If you get to meet Mayor Quan, I mean when you get to meet her, she attends neighborhood activities as if she never sleeps, ask her anything about Oakland you always wanted to know. Her knowledge of our history, finances, neighborhoods, topography, and its people is encyclopedic. It is difficult to stay unimpressed when you see her grasp of our needs and wants catalogued with the many solutions she is devising (and has throughout her history here).

Yes, I’m a supporter and I’m working hard to stop the recall. No, we don’t always agree on everything. If you read my blog at all you’ll see that; and I’m not quiet about it when I do not see eye to eye with her administration. But, she’s not just my mayor, she’s the mayor of folks who think the police should be unfettered by oversight because they rarely misbehave. She’s the mayor of young people who camped at Occupy and think it is the most important thing happening in Oakland. She’s also the mayor of folks who hear gunshots at night and want their children to be safe in their beds as well as from police harassment and the lure of gangs.

Mayor speaks at Oakland's Women Suffrage Celebration

She’s the mayor of residents who need a good grocery store and not another liquor store and the mayor of all the drivers (and bicyclists) who want their potholes fixed, merchants who want free parking, and seniors who want their centers open all day, every day. She’s even the mayor of the governor who used up all our redevelopment dollars-during the good times-and then- like the guy who snatched up the rope ladder after climbing to safety, well, you know what happened there.

If you spent a day following Jean Quan around-that’s a challenge I wouldn’t take-I don’t have the stamina-you’d see a smidgen of the length and breadth of her knowledge, hard work, and problem-solving skills. You’d see leadership of the not-so-slick-or-shiny kind, not the glib-easy-answer kind. You’d see thoughtful, hard working leadership in a woman who is just where she needs to be.

Mayor Quan receives resolution of support from the Norther Cal. District Laborers' Affiliates