The city of Oakland has been experiencing a major boom. The city is attracting more high-tech businesses, a growing number of restaurants and bars are fueling a vibrant nightlife and housing prices are soaring. But Oakland continues to struggle with a high crime rate, underfunded schools and a wide gulf between the rich and the poor. We talk with Mayor Jean Quan and Oakland’s new city administrator, Fred Blackwell, about the changes and challenges facing Oakland.

Jean Quan, mayor of the city of Oakland
Fred Blackwell, administrator for the city of Oakland

  • Livegreen

    The Mayor is going to
    a) Try to take responsibility for businesses she had no control over;
    b) Avoid taking any responsibility for local government she had responsibility over, including cuts to & underfunding of basic services such as:

    Police (about 200 less than before the recession);
    Roads ($400 million in unfunded repairs & repaving);
    Parks & Rec (many have bathrooms that are so disgusting people can’t use);
    Unfunded pension liabilities, to the tune of $1 billion+ & cutting out public services.

    The Mayor will tell us everything is better than it was. Yet she negotiated zero pay concessions from the Municipal Unions who supported her & even gave them a pay raise. Yet she’s leaving the underfunding of City Services as is.

    The Mayor’s priorities are clear: Say one thing & do another.

  • Guest

    Why does this corrupt mayor still show her face in public? Has she no shame? She is responsible for the attempted murder by her dirty cops of a peaceful Occupy protester Scott Olsen:

    …as well as for other extreme offenses by the cops that have occurred on her watch, like the illegal arrests of over 400 protesters and the suspicious vandalism of City Hall, which could have easily been done by cops dressed as protesters.

    Quan seems like she would be more at home as a Communist Party official in China than dealing with a justice-seeking public. If she wants to lead, she should fire the current police force and start fresh.

    • thucy

      I agree with you that Quan has grossly mismanaged what was an already dysfunctional situation. I would question your statement:
      “Quan seems like she would be more at home as a Communist Party official in China than dealing with a justice-seeking public…”

      Just out of curiosity: Have you any actual experience in China, or even Asia? (Have you even left the N.A. continent in the last fifteen to twenty years?) Or, specifically with CCP officials? Is it really your assertion that Jean Quan is on that level, or is she, as is more likely the case, simply not up to the task?

      There are valid concerns on this side of the Bay (see Rose Pak) when it comes to emulating corrupt CCP functionaries, and valid questions about Pak’s links to the Chinese government. But I question whether the comparison of Quan to that level of corruption holds up.

      On the other hand, if it’s just sarcasm on your part, have at it.

      • Guest

        Maybe I was being a little hyperbolic but has there been any analysis of how Quan managed to mismanage the Occupy debacle? It’s fair to question whether such a conflict could occur without a political culture similar to China.

        • Bob Fry

          Just a little? Haha, Frank, I tend to agree with 80% of your insightful posts but there’s always that 20% that dives into wackolandia.

          • Guest

            @Bob, well I disagree with myself sometimes too, but that’s not because I’m off in wackolandia, it’s because I’m wrong. One should base one’s opinions on facts and sound logic, and the fact is Quan’s performance during Occupy was awful. My previous comment about Quan was speculative but at the same time, in better democracies she would have been forced to step down already. In the USA, bad politicians stay put.

            About wackolandia I think I’ve said to you before that you need to step out of your comfort zone and consider ideas that don’t confirm what you want to believe.

        • thucy

          I think my as-yet-unanswered questions for you were:
          1) “Have you any actual experience in China, or even Asia? (Have you even left the N.A. continent in the last fifteen to twenty years?)
          2) “Or, specifically with CCP officials?”
          4) “Is it really your assertion that Jean Quan is on that level, or is she, as is more likely the case, simply not up to the task?”

          I guess my other question would be: is corruption something manufactured solely in China and utterly unknown in the Western hemisphere prior to, say, Marco Polo’s travels?
          Is the fact that American institutions are also fantastically corrupt linked somehow to China?
          Pethaps, if we have the traditional courage of the best of Western culture, we can (and even you can) “man up” just enough to acknowledge that our corruption is home-grown.
          To paraphrase Jeff Lebowski on Vietnam, “Walter, what does China have to do with ANYTHING?!”

          • Guest

            @thucy, re living in China, no but I know a few people who have been over there, and I’ve watched documentaries and read articles.

            Sure, Quan did not, as Chinese officials have many times done, crush people alive with tanks and tractors. But her mishandling of the Occupy situation stands in contrast to her feigned caring about Oscar Grant’s plight, which was probably just political posturing. On the one hand she let bad cops go nuts, on the other she pretended to be against bad cops.

            Oakland = bad cops, surveillance, protesters were attacked, & a focus on “growth” meaning the poor get screwed.

            China = bad cops, surveillance, protesters were attacked, & a focus on “growth” meaning the poor get screwed.

  • Sanfordia113

    With gentrification, there is implied and identified displacement of longtime African American residents. There is also a reduction in crime. What is happening to the “displaced” African Americans? Are they now in prison, have they died off, or have they moved to other cities? If other cities, which ones, and what is the experience in these other/new cities? Where are they and how are those residents interacting with remaining AA members of Oakland?

    • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

      Personally I don’t care as long as the crime goes down.

  • Ingrid

    As an Oakland resident, I have watched for years as many of the East Bay’s best and brightest worked for the city and county of San Francisco. I was thrilled when Fred Blackwell came back to Oakland and know we’ll benefit from his commitment and experience.

  • Skip Conrad

    Does Oakland have a sanctuary city policy?

    • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

      looks that way don’t it

  • Chomsky_P

    Why can’t affordable housing go to those who really need it? There is a MASSIVE waiting list (and most are closed), so why not lower the income needed to qualify?

  • Charlie

    I work in tech, but I consider myself a dedicated member of the Oakland community first. How do we change the tone around gentrification while still working hard to keep people in their homes? Problems like crime and jobs are bigger than the superficial issues of tech shuttles. Our neighbors, of all races and socioeconomic classes, want clean, well kept and safe streets.

  • Erin Lagier

    How do you inspire people to come to Oakland? My husband lived in Oakland for 13 years before we got married and convinced me to look for a home there. I only knew Oakland from it’s arguably poor reputation but as we looked for a home I found it to be an exciting and vibrant city. How do you inspire businesses, investors and potential residents to give Oakland a chance?

    • erictremont

      You do it by removing Oakland’s police force from the shackles of the Federal consent agreement, cutting pension benefits for new city employees (including police and fire department staff), and then hiring more police officers to prevent crime from happening in the first place. I will never feel safe going to Oakland until they hire more police.

  • michael

    I have always wondered why Mayor Quan nor the city has never addressed the seemingly designated ‘crack park’ that sits on Saint Andrews Plaza, the concrete triangle between San Pablo, FIlbert St and 32nd. It is a horrible blight on the neighborhood, not to mention it is two blocks from McClymonds High school. Will the city ever address this?

    • Michael Orange

      Don’t be so sure the “crack park” isn’t already part of the “solution.”

  • erictremont

    The number one reason why Brooklyn became a much more desirable place to live is because the NYPD dramatically reduced crime in NYC.

  • Holly

    Enjoying the show! I am a bilingual high school teacher who just moved to the area in August. Though I live in Oakland, I’m teaching in San Rafael. I have considered teaching in Oakland, but the salaries are significantly lower than the salary I am making now and the salary I was making in Santa Cruz. I would love to teach in the area, but I know it is more challenging. Paying teachers more would bring in and retain better educators and help kids care more about their education. Besides partnerships with Mills and Teach for America type programs, what is being done to improve Oakland’s state of education?

  • Visakha Som

    Bay Area Community Services(BACS) is the non profit that now partners with the
    City of Oakland and runs the Henry Robinson. In the new model, we have gotten
    130 plus homeless people directly off the streets and are helping them with
    skills and to find permanent housing. That is 10 percent of the homeless in
    Oakland. The community of homeless people at the Henry really want and need
    help and want to stop their cycle of homelessness. We need the Oakland
    community to help us so that we can put a stop to homelessness. To help, please visit us at http://www.bayareacs.org.

  • disqus_S1ql48Vi9i

    Michael you totally wasted a valuable opportunity. The first half hour of the show was PURE BLATHER. Horrible.

  • trite

    Puff piece–no hard questions. Mr. Krasny should learn to follow up when the interviewee does not answer the question originally asked. Check out BBC interviewers.

  • hestekaren

    Mayor Quan and Fred Blackwell are behind more billboards blighting the Bay–is that good for business? http://m.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Giant-Bay-Bridge-billboards-light-up-debate-in-5329284.php

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor