The Triumph of Hope over Experience

In a city which had to severely cut core services in order to deal with a 20% shortfall in its general fund earlier this year, and which faces further fiscal fiascoes for the foreseeable future, can someone explain to me why being the Chair of the City Council’s Finance Committee is being touted by Oakland mayoral candidate Jean Quan’s supporters as an argument in her favor, rather than an argument against her?

Quan’s supporters cited her knowledge of Oakland city government as one of her main qualifications for mayor. She has served as chair of the City Council Finance Committee, which has had to make difficult decisions in cutting close to $100 million from the 2009 city budget, with a projected $25 million of budgets cuts still to come in 2010.

“She’s the one who knows the city of Oakland inside and out,” said Claudia Falconer, president of the Montclair Village Association. “It’s a troubled time, and cities across the country are having fiscal problems. Jean knows the Finance Department of the City of Oakland better than anyone else.”

I’m not masochistic enough to pay very close attention to Oakland’s government, so maybe someone can convince me that Quan is part of the solution rather than part of the problem when it comes to Oakland’s financial problems, but at first blush, I find this argument less than compelling. The same article notes that she wants to model her campaign after Obama’s, with a lot of grassroots neighborhood organizing. Obama certainly ran an impressive campaign, but let’s not forget that he also benefited from a widespread “throw the bums out!” sentiment, and that similar feelings will motivate a lot of voters in 2010’s elections too. (Not that the idea of voting for Don Perata for mayor makes me any more excited—the only prospect that really excites me about Oakland’s mayoral election is the thought that maybe I won’t be able to vote in it because I won’t live here anymore. Now that’s change I can believe in!)

13 Responses to “The Triumph of Hope over Experience”

  1. unique distance from isolation says:

    FragEv: “the only prospect that really excites me about Oakland’s mayoral election is the thought that maybe I won’t be able to vote in it because I won’t live here anymore. Now that’s change I can believe in!)”

    What? A traitor to Oaktown? I am shocked. Then again, maybe you’ll move this way…

  2. ruth gutmann says:

    I too was struck by that comment of yours — and the declaration that Not living in Oakland is change you can believe in. I believe that you are not one to make offhanded comments. Are you ready to say more?

  3. dc says:

    I don’t have much more to say. I’m just wondering anew why I live in this dumpy, dysfunctional city. I was in San Francisco this evening, and was reminded yet again of how nice it is to be in a place where there are people on the (mostly uncracked) sidewalks, and where I can walk more than 2 miles after 9 pm, alone, without wondering whether I’ll be robbed by nihilistic thugs. I’ve never even liked SF all that much, but it sure seemed appealing tonight.

  4. ng says:

    appealing, even with the bike-stealing bums? or were they just theoretical robbers?!

  5. eric says:

    It’s almost Christmas! Woo-hoo!

  6. dc says:

    ng: The homeless guys seemed to be having a purely theoretical discussion. Along the lines of “People just leave stuff there for the taking. Two minutes of work, and someone could walk off with this bike.” Like most people who present themselves as experts, the guy didn’t really seem to know what he was talking about. As far as I was concerned, the bike was probably safer with them standing there looking at it than it would have been otherwise.

    eric: Indeed—ask me again after the holidays have passed, and my outlook on Oakland may have improved significantly. Speaking of which, I had a great bike ride through East Oakland to San Leandro this morning. Just a few more days and grumpy season will be behind me…

  7. dc says:

    Another thing to add to the Oakland hit list: a new cafe with indoor bike parking, a pump, and some tools in case anyone needs to fix a flat. Sweet! I rode by it during construction a few months ago and it looked promising, but I didn’t know it had opened. It’s on a part of (mostly blighted) San Pablo Avenue which has a few interesting galleries too.

  8. Andie Janos says:

    Well D, if you flee Oaktown to go to SF, you will be missed!

  9. KenO says:

    dc arent both cities dangerous? i’d move away eventually too.

  10. dc says:

    Both cities are dangerous, but ours is more dangerous. Anyway, I didn’t bring up SF because I particularly want to move there—it just happened to offer me the most recent reminder of what a city is supposed to feel like, with people out and about (and not only in a few commercial blocks here and there), fewer single-family homes, fewer car-dependent residents, and so on. Oakland has little bits and pieces of urban density and bustle, but the spaces in between are too often either blighted wasteland or dull sprawl, and it’s starting to get to me. The high crime rate is just an added irritation.

  11. KenO says:

    if you loved sf, you’ll kiss park street asphalt in alameda on new year’s eve 😉

    oakland (and ebay) has long been sf’s suburb. oakland is largely suburban if you check out an aerial view. sf slightly less so.

    you must live in tokyo if you want high density all the time. i used to live there for a couple years =)

  12. KenO says:

    if we could take out SFHs for highway 24 in the 60s, I don’t see why we can’t take out SFHs now in the 10s for more condo action. oh wait, NIMBY …

    what the hell was different then??

    all that robert moses shit… he never even DROVE a car! just did the bidding of folks with money.

    980 and 24 should be torn out.

    what do yoou propose as a solution for the JLS-Downtown underpass being ugly? i don’t think more signs is good enough.

  13. Andy K says:

    Back on topic – Jean also was on the School Board prior to being on the City Council. Another success story.

    I often wonder why I live here too. I love the Bay Area – SF was fun in the early 90s, but it is a little to pricey for me. Also, when you live there it is easy to shut yourself out to everything else in the Bay Area. I do still have hope for Oaktown. As I have been saying for the 14 years I have been here – so much potential.

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