Damned if She Does, Damned if She Doesn’t

For the past few months, Mayor Jean Quan has been stuck between a rock and a hard place.

For Jean Quan, 2011 was the Year of the Bizarre. In spring, she was riding high, enjoying a 57 percent approval rating among Oakland voters, and by July 1, her administration had hammered out pension and compensation deals with the city’s unions that avoided drastic cuts to public services. But with the arrival of Occupy Oakland in October, everything had changed. Suddenly, Quan was being vilified by progressive Occupy supporters for twice green-lighting police raids on the City Hall Plaza encampment, while the moderate, law-and-order contingent in town was lambasting her for not cracking down sooner and harder on Occupy, and clamoring to recall her from office.

Perhaps at no time were the double-barreled attacks on Quan clearer than last week. On Friday, the mayor decided to shut down comments on her Facebook page because of unrelenting, brutal attacks from Occupy supporters, some of whom had also shouted her down at a forum in San Francisco the night before. And in Opposite World, Quan also was being pilloried by moderate members of the Oakland City Council who pushed forward with a policy to demand harsher police responses to Occupy mass demonstrations.

The comments from Occupy supporters on Quan’s Facebook page were particularly vicious, especially after the first raid on the City Hall encampment on October 25. “How does it feel to have blood on your hands?” one commenter wrote. “You’re a disgrace.” Numerous other Occupiers made similar comments and called on her to resign.

Likewise, at a forum at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club, Quan got “mic checked” and was jeered by Occupy protesters. To them, Quan has almost become the symbol of villainy, an alleged pawn of the One Percent — perhaps even more despised than UC Davis police Lieutenant John Pike, who casually pepper-sprayed student protesters. It’s a startling development for Quan, considering that she has been a progressive activist/demonstrator for much of her adult life. And it was just plain weird, too. Do Occupy supporters really believe that a recall will result in the election of a mayor more progressive than Quan?

At the same time, the Occupiers’ unvarnished hatred for the mayor seems to be pushing her toward the moderates. At the Commonwealth Club forum, Quan praised the Occupy movement for furthering progressive goals like taxing the rich, but expressed no regrets for her actions, the Oakland Tribune reported. She also criticized Occupy Oakland for not considering small businesses in Oakland, particularly in Chinatown, that she says were harmed by the Occupy protests.

The moderates and those aligned with big business also have to be licking their chops. They never wanted Quan to be mayor in the first place, and now they’ve been handed a gift by Occupy Oakland. Who would have thought six months ago that progressives would be helping them try to oust Quan from office and replace her with a mayor they actually want?

That’s not to say that Quan doesn’t deserve some of the blame for her misfortune — because she does. Her decision early on to take a hands-off approach to Occupy Oakland, rather than vigorously embracing it and working hard to make it clean and safe, was a huge mistake. And so was her decision to authorize the first police raid on the City Hall encampment. It was much too early to crack down on Occupy; the protest had barely begun.

But are those grounds for a recall? The Oakland Tribune editorial board doesn’t think so; it came out strongly against the recall last week. The Tribune stated that a mayor should only be recalled if she is corrupt or incompetent, and said that Quan is neither. Similarly, Alameda County labor leaders vowed this week to help the mayor fend off the recall campaign, Bay City News reported. Josie Camacho, executive director of the Alameda County Labor Council, which represents 120 unions with 120,000 members, called the recall “a waste of time and a waste of resources.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Three-Dot Roundup

Not only are there two recall campaigns involving three groups against Quan, but angry parents have launched a recall effort against five Oakland school board members. The Trib reported that the parents are upset at the board members for voting to close five schools. … A judge refused to issue an injunction against Oakland police for allegedly violating its own crowd-control policies during two Occupy protests, the Trib reported. Judge Richard Seeborg ruled that the ACLU and the National Lawyers’ Guild could not prove that OPD systematically ignored its policies — as required for an injunction. … Chevron, one of the world’s largest corporations, is demanding a $50 million property tax refund for its Richmond refinery, Bay City News reported. … About two hundred workers are being fired at Pacific Steel and Casting in Berkeley this holiday season following an immigration crackdown at the plant, the Contra Costa Times reported. … Governor Jerry Brown announced that state budget cuts to K-12 education will not be as severe as some had thought because the California economy is showing signs of recovery. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the state will slash about $327 million from public schools — not $1 billion as many had feared. Other cuts include $100 million each to the UC and CSU systems, and $102 million to community colleges. … In recognition that many students can no longer afford UC Berkeley, the campus has decided to offer tuition discounts for the first time to those who come from middle-class families, the Chronicle reported. … State officials have declared Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley to be a disaster zone in the wake of last month’s massive fire that destroyed an apartment building and several small businesses, Berkeleyside reported. … Alameda County retailers will be required to charge ten cents to customers who want their purchases put in plastic bags, beginning January 1, 2013, under a new rule adopted by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, the Trib reported. In addition, owners of multifamily buildings will be required to begin recycling paper and other recyclables next July, and to compost food and green waste in 2014. … And Warren Hellman, the San Francisco financier who launched the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and the Bay Citizen news website, died of complications from leukemia. He was 77.

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