Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mayor Jean Quan - Show Goes On

It was 7pm on a Monday night...I had cooked two large salmon, ten marinated pork loins,  mixed three bucketloads of salad and arranged cookies and chocolate. The table was groaning with an array of wine and I agonised whether the highly-rated Australian Cab Sav called Ballbuster set the wrong tone. "Wow" said Harley, 13, helpfully: "No one here yet...just as well I like salmon."

Me, Jean Quan and Kevin
I'll be honest - it was tough to stir interest in our fundraiser for Oakland's Mayor  Jean Quan. You might have met Jean here and here. She is a hard-working do-er, a "civil servant" not a politician, who has given back 25% of her salary, $46,000, because of the budget crisis. I wanted to host this evening as Jean was left with a $100,000 debt from her campaign.

By Friday, Evite told us we had 15 yes's and 110 not replied.  We had hoped for around 40 guests, raising a total of about $4,000. Kevin spent two hours walking the streets with the kids and talking to neighbours. On Sunday I spent four hours knocking on more doors. Our friend Sally sent out loads of emails and knocked on doors in her neighbourhood. But there was no way of knowing if people would actually turn up. (And thanks for your advice - calling people and talking face-to-face is the best way. Plus people do reply on the day.)

Oakland is a suprisingly beautiful place to live; 12 minutes across the bridge from San Francisco, three hours from ski mountains. It's a city with world-class restaurants, a soulful arts culture, glittering views of the Bay and lush walks. But also: senseless shootings, heart-breakingly poor schools and a bog of debt. Do you want to hear about this again on Monday night...or watch telly?

Even if, as Julie one of friends from London, says: "She's an historic figure, the first American Chinese woman to be mayor of a major US city."

In the end, we were alright on the night - 45 neighbours turned up including retirees, health workers, at-home mothers and owners of solar, software and electrical companies. The sun shone in the backyard, most of the food was eaten, we raised nearly $4,000. If anyone was appalled by the Ballbuster wine, they didn't say anything.

During the electoral campaign, Jean Quan intrigued with her all-business-all-the-time intensity and her "wonkish" manner. It was her lack of slick that appealed. However, at the party, some felt she could benefit from media training to inject more dynamism and conciseness into her presentation, especially as Oakland is trying to draw big retailers and investors.

She spoke about how all of our unions had agreed to contribute 9 percent of their income and she was positive about her trip to China and Las Vegas to attract investors.

Wendy Wheeler liked that Jean was "pushing for a Shanghai-style night market in Chinatown, which would bring more people downtown to spend money."

Fredi, Jean Quan and Wendy
Some felt Jean should have asked for more input from the audience. Kevin Dobbs said: "Jean may be very capable but she can’t run the city on her own, she needs to get more of the citizens involved. I think it's admirable that she wants to interact and work with the underprivileged communities but if she really wants to improve and move Oakland forward she must engage with the citizens in the Hills and all of small and medium-sized businesses. Not sure if she is comfortable doing that. Probably one of the reasons it was tough getting people to attend this."

Another said: "I came away more impressed with Jean but didn’t have a real high bar going in. She is taking small steps but really needs to have a grand vision. We need a 25-year plan. She only has 8 years."

How does she see Oakland in 25 years?  Next morning, on the way to camp my kids sang: "Then I detour, Oakland out to Auckland" from the current constant-loop-on-the-radio song The Show Goes On. Could Oakland ever be the Auckland of the Bay Area, a multi-culti playground of shops, shine, water and fun?

Hardest working mayor in the country. But will hard work be enough, some ask. I really don't know...this is the woman who was underestimated by her election opponent, a powerful politician with $2m to spend. As the song says, she keeps "letting 'em know."

Raise them til your arms tired, let em know you there.
That you struggling, surviving that you gon persevere yea
Aint nobody leavin, nobody going home
Even if they turn the lights out, the show is going on
 Lupe Fiasco, The Show Goes On


  1. Seems like it worked out just fine. Good of you to be so socially involved! Full marks for that.
    Strange wine.

  2. All your efforts paid off - I'm sure this will give her some pointers for how to move forward and keep engaging with the local community.
    So glad you had a good evening and hope there was some salmon left over for Harley!

  3. How stunning and you look extremely beautiful, I love your dress.

  4. We need so many more public servants like Jean Quan. Thanks for reporting on this event - glad it went well. And, love your dress!

  5. I love the fact that you quoted Lupe! Mad props.

  6. Comment from Sally Fitzhugh:

    It was great to hear directly from our mayor about the issues foremost on her agenda. I'm impressed she's fulfilled a major campaign promise to make the police and fire unions come to the table and negotiate a reasonable compromise that will ultimately lead to more police on the streets. I'm glad she's exploring the idea of possibly locating a baseball park in/near Jack London Square. That could really help to energize a major, underutilized asset in the city. I like her commitment to neighborhood community development. She's got an interesting slate of big picture goals (Pacific trade, Port upgrades and tourism with China) and micro-community focus (mentorship program, Neighborhood Watches, local events newsletter, Block by Block activism.) It's clear Jean Quan really cares about Oakland, envisions it becoming an even better place to live and is willing to roll up her sleeves to get the job done.

  7. It sounds like everything went well! I think that all events run into some road blocks, but I think that you kept everything under control. :) Yay!
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

  8. wow....well done....I had completely forgotten I stayed in Oakland when I visited a friend in San Francisco in......1983....happy memories!!

  9. A perfect match of the best party givers in town and the hardest working mayor Oakland has known. Clearly an enormous amount of talent in the room. When Hills residents offer their expertise directly to the Mayor's office, things will really take off. If you have ideas, advice and skills email to invest in Oakland email to My guess is you won't get an immediate response but your letter will be percolating in the Mayor's very busy brain.

  10. I am so happy that everything turned out well for you!

  11. It sounds like a huge success all round. What an amazing thing you did for her. Did all the food get eaten or are you still eating salmon and salad from a bucket:)

  12. hey Jody well done. I am so pleased you got a good crowd to enjoy all your efforts. And your report was interesting reading too. You are now officially an events organiser.

  13. I laughed at the name of the wine! But well done you for being a do-er! It would have been so easy to cancel the whole thing or host some sort of damp-squib affair. Jean sounds like a remarkable woman!

  14. sounds like you hit your target in terms of numbers. well done!

  15. Jody, I am so proud of you for having this fund raiser and how frustrating not to know until the very last minute about the head count. I think that people like you are the ones who do change cities and more people should serve Ballbuster wine!

    xo Mary jo

  16. Katie and I had a really good time - The food and wine were very tasty!

    As for the mayor, I went in with somewhat low expectations, and came away fairly impressed. I liked the depth and breadth of what she talked about. I think she's genuine and sincere, which I like - I'm always dubious of slick salesmen. But that's just me. I told Katie that in the current situation, it'd be really hard to do that job and not have everyone hate you. Oakland has to grind it's way forward. A lot of Jean's agenda seems to be taken up by fights to recoup money that Oakland should have received or should not have had taken (redevelopment, fines to the school district). Not visionary stuff, but necessary.

    Some folks were suggesting, and I agree that Oakland needs to have a certain kind of charisma to a attract business investment and affluent homeowners (= revenue). Jean's not exactly brimming with charisma, but I think the mayor is just a small part of the package. She could hire people to do the schmoozing and take care of it that way. Hiring the right people and managing them well is really key, because she can't do even a small fraction of what needs to be done by herself.

    One idea for what Oakland could look like: a bigger version of Portland, OR. There are lots of similarities between the situations and cultures of these two cities. Portland has some really good stuff going for it these days. Portland has been executing on a plan from 23 years ago: "Portland 1988 Central City Plan": It addressed transportation, urban (re-)development, livability, etc. They've done an amazing job brining those visions to life.

  17. I like your honest feedback on the Mayor and how she comes across and what she needs to improve on. I think that's bold of you.
    And I love how involved you are in Oakland politics in this way. Many people are all talk and no action (that's me!) I think it's a shame how unaware most of my Oakland friends are.
    Randy really enjoyed your event. Wish I could've come too.

  18. I agree with Leslie, in regards to your honest feedback and appraisal of the matter, and in your involvement.

    Unfortunately- hard work is not enough. I learned that LOUD and CLEAR, as a complete 'workhorse' in my 12 years of corporate experience. It is only part of the equation... sometimes, just a small part. Personally- it wasn't until I changed my game that I started to see the BIG results.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...