Interview with Jean Quan on Possible Recall, the Occupy Movement and the Oakland Economy

As the holiday shopping season gets underway and Occupy Oakland looks to regroup in Oakland, it’s a good time check out KQED reporter Krissy Clark’s wide ranging interview with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. The two of them talked by phone last Wednesday.

In addition to plugging a new gift card that can be used at multiple local Oakland businesses and reflecting on how to get the economy going, Quan talked about the effort by some to recall her and the impact of the Occupy movement. Here are some of the highlights:

A poll showed your approval rating at 16%. Does that affect your ability to govern? This is a very tough job I have I can’t worry about the day to day polls…it’s we just have too much at stake. I haven’t had the time really to sit down with my family and talk about the long term politics. We just want, the holiday season is particularly important to any city. We want to get the economy going to as well as we can to help all the residents of the city. Are you taking the effort to recall you seriously? I think I have to take everything seriously. I hear that sour grapes of certain candidates that lost in the past might be funding the signatures. I think that’s a shame. What I’m hearing is even some business people who might not have liked what happened in occupy, they’re happy now, they want the city to get back to business. A recall can be very divisive and it can be very time, energy and money consuming, so most business people I’ve talked to have said they’re not supporting the recall.

What are some of the ways you’re trying to drum up support for downtown merchants in Oakland? As you know the Oakland economy has been pretty hard hit like most of the Bay Area, and the downtown demonstrations have particularly hit our downtown merchants, even Chinatown which is nowhere near downtown tells us that they had 40% drop off.

So what we’re hoping to do is remind people that Oakland has 40 unique and distcint neighborhoods and invite them to come.

A lot of the merchants, though, are still pretty angry at the handling of the protests and feel business has gone down and really blame you. How are you going to win those people back? I get beat up from both sides. There are people who thought we could leave [the occupiers]. And then there are those who thought I should have taken them out on the first day.

I think most of us across the country, the mayors who have had to deal with this, we didn’t know quite what to expect. When the camps first started they were mostly peaceful and positive palces. But by the second week in many cities, because of the problems urban palces have with the homeless with mentally ill people, and unfortunately in the Bay Area we have very negative archist group that likes to fight the police and wouldn’t work this the city…

I think by taking the time, particularly the second time, to talk with the demonstrators, particularly those who wanted to be peaceful and to work with our churches and our comunty groups I think you’ve had a final resolution that’s been more peaceful and more lasting than some fo the other cities.

Oakland last weekend had three different events that had nothing to do with the encampment around the 99%. I think the movement is going to move on from the encampments.

Are you negotiating with Occupy protestors now? I wish that I could negotiate with so called Occupy Oakland. I mean we’re one of the few cities where, I think because the anarchist element was in general assembly, that they refused to meet with the city.

I think the movement is still learning and growing. I’ve been very supportive, some of my old SEIU friends are going to Washington and that’s where I think they need to be.

I think we should be encouraging people to go to Washington and camp out in the mall because of the jobs bill. I think that’s where the target would be better aimed.

Mayors of big cities like ours are just having a hard time doing the balance because of the economic impact. For Oakland it was also just the drain on the services. The day we had the big demonstration we had to pull police out ofthe neighborhoods. That day the shootings were the highest of all year.

People have to be more thoughtful about their strategies. I don’t think they intended to hurt the economy but they have. I don’t think they intended to draw services away from communities that need them, but they did.

Author

Rachel Dornhelm

Rachel Dornhelm has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in public radio for the last twelve years. She got her start in New York City at WNYC and went on to work with the national business program Marketplace, WBUR’s “On Point” and KQED News in San Francisco. Her work has been honored by the LA Press Club and the SF-Peninsula Press Club.

Rachel has a BA with honors in anthropology from Rice University and did graduate work at NYU.

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