Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is perhaps the most absent-minded Mayor of Oakland in our modern history. Thus, to accuse her of transparency smacks of nastiness, not the activity of a journalist. This blogger points to the work of a local online publication The Bay Citizen, where for some reason Jennifer Gollan and Shoshana Walter (who should know better) elected to break out the tried-and-true “Let’s get Jean” strategy for investigative journalism.
Yes, the Bay Citizen wants to show its saving investigative journalism under the oversight of Ex-Hearst Corporation Exec Phil Bronstein, but cut the crap. This was the reporting equivalent of a police officer writing a j-walking ticket in Berkeley.
Look, here’s this blogger’s value structure: Mayor Quan is a nice person who was given a huge job that she’s not really well prepared to handle. As I wrote in 2010, when she won the election as the second choice winner due to that dreaded Rank Choice Voting process…
Mayor Elect Quan is blessed to be in this position. But this blogger hopes she remembers to just be nice to everyone and greet Oaklanders with a smile and a hand shake. We need that now. God has given you an amazing blessing. I know you have it within you to be a great mayor, all you have to do is be a great mayor. Good luck.
The trouble is the root of the appearance of Quan’s lack of transparency isn’t that she’s evil, but that she is occasionally absent-minded and the people she chooses to surround herself with don’t always take up the slack and that is because of what she allows them to do – unless they’re family members. For example, Quan has Annie Campbell Washington as her Chief of Staff, but the impression that I get is Quan doesn’t let Annie BE HER CHIEF OF STAFF.
This is also why Gollon and Walter’s look at Quan falls short: a total lack of understanding of how a Mayor’s Office is supposed to work. They didn’t say they even tried to call Washington at all. This is the same Annie Campbell Washington who sat next to me rather than be allowed to stand next to her boss at the now famous 100-block Press Conference that became Councilmember Larry Reid punking Mayor Quan. That, even as Mrs. Washington elected to bail out her boss by straightening out the 100-Blocks problem via the local media.
Jean’s problem is this: she trusts her family members and friends to be her advisors and public bodyguards (Mayor Quan routinely walks without bodyguards), even over appointed public officials. As one who’s worked for two Mayors of Oakland, to name some of the ways I’ve been involved in Oakland, Quan is the only one who allows the appearance that it’s ran like Mayberry RFD. That’s not a slam, that’s a fact.
Mayor Quan says she’s understaffed, but she could work a deal with any of the urban planning and public policy programs around (Hello! Goldman School at Berkeley) and get interns and temp staff to assist. And why not an Oakland Police Officer to be with her – they don’t hate her that much, do they?
Mayor Quan doesn’t post her schedule because the person’s who did it for her, Sue Piper, are gone. Sue looked out for Jean, and did take pains to make sure that was done to the best of her ability. Sue’s retired. Again, a trusted close friend who Jean leans on.
Jean has this habit of leaning on her friends to help her run the Mayor’s Office. Here’s another example I wrote from the Occupy Oakland Mess, when the organizers of 2011’s first Occupy Oakland General Assembly after the Nightmare Riot of October 25th, and held in front of Oakland City Hall, were wondering if the Mayor was going to show up and talk:
There are times when the Lord puts you in a place to see how the sausage is made. As one who’s worked for two of the last four Oakland Mayors, I was placed in a position to see how our Oakland Mayor Jean Quan forms a decision: take a distances out of sight, get information from her people, deliberate over options, then take the safest of the selected choices of action. That was the way it came to Mayor Quan showing up at the small crowd point during last night’s Occupy Oakland General Assembly.
Note, I said “small point,” because prior to Quan’s arrival, this blogger left for dinner at Flora Restaurant, and because many of what I will call “Quan’s People” had departed and personally told me she wasn’t going to show up to speak to the Occupy Oakland protestors. Specifically, Dan Siegel (pictured) and Allan Brill, the former, the long time legal activist and adviser to Quan, and the later a well-known union activist and also an unofficial assistant to Quan.
It was Dan, Allan, and Quan’s daughter Lailan who were in almost constant contact with Quan on the phone. And how I know is because I was standing right in the middle of their small group of people, since I’d just finished interviewing Dan.
There’s your window into the Oakland Mayor’s Office under Jean. I later pointed to her trip to ICSC Las Vegas as one that wasn’t noted on her schedule, only to be corrected by Michael Colbruno of the Oakland Planning Commission. So this idea that Jean’s not transparent in some deliberate way is old news, and not really all that true.
What Jean Quan is, is in over her head. She’s working hard, but needs more good help and that should come from the Oakland City Administrator.