OAKLAND | A National Journal article on Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has been given additional context after the magazine admitted the series of quotes “inaccurately reflected Mayor Quan’s sentiment, while also omitting crucial context.”
The original article’s contents provided a brief firestorm Tuesday among Oakland residents and more than a bit of head scratching for others when she said her biggest challenge as mayor is changing the perception of its racial demographics.
However, even with additional context, Quan’s comments may still rankle some for ignoring more pressing issues in Oakland, such as crime, joblessness and trust in government.
Bryan Parker, a candidate for Oakland mayor next year, said the city’s most pressing issue is clearly public safety. “To lose that important point in this discussion feels irresponsible. I’m sure many, as I was, were taken aback by these remarks. I think the comments miss on two fronts,” Parker said Tuesday night.
“First, her comments suggest that her belief is that there is a negative stigma associated with having a high number of African Americans in Oakland. Second, like many of her other actions, her comments today lack the structure of thoughtful leadership. I would quickly re-focus this discussion on safety and how we can create a safe and healthy Oakland.”
The latest version of the article expands on the question of Quan biggest challenge as mayor. Additional context includes Quan referring to a resident’s erroneous belief that half the city’s population is black. Below is the newest version:
Oakland has been in the shadow of San Francisco for a long time, but it has a very interesting history of its own, of being very diverse and a place where innovation takes place. It was the end of the transcontinental railroad and the home of the Pullman porters. Like New York, it’s a port city where immigrants first come and maintain ties.
We’re contradictory. I have neighborhoods in the African-American community where more than 50 percent of the young men don’t graduate from high school. But we also have high numbers of graduate degrees. We’re the original home of the University of California; we’re close to the University of Berkeley. You’ve got this immense diversity, not just in terms of ethnicity but also income. It generates a kind of energy and innovation that’s at the heart of the city.
We’re a little bit like Brooklyn. Because Oakland is so much more affordable than San Francisco, the whole arts scene has shifted over here. The food scene has taken off. Those kinds of cultural things have made Oakland very desirable.
And so, you asked me what my challenge is. Well, my challenge is to let people know what the new Oakland looks like. Somebody just sent me an email saying, ‘Oh, you should have more black police since more than 50 percent of your residents are black.’ And I’m like, ‘Actually, no, 28 percent of my residents are black, but we’re pretty evenly divided between blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians these days.’ But that’s their image of Oakland–and this is somebody who lives in the Bay Area.
In the meantime, the buzz from Quan’s comments provided the first real taste of the coming election season. Strategists passed emails and pushed for their own nuanced take on the article. For certain, it will be a tough race in Oakland. One where unforced errors could decide the election.