Blackwell’s Departure may be a Tipping Point for Quan’s Re-Election Chances

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan at a Save Oakland Sports event last January. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

OAKLAND | ANALYSIS | Last year, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan suffered through an somewhat embarrassing few days when, in a matter of roughly 48 hours, the city saw two police chiefs abruptly resign. The third police chief, Sean Whent, still awaits word whether the interim tag will be removed or a permanent, and fourth chief, will soon be named. Was this exodus an isolated event at City Hall? Apparently not.

Last month, when Deanna Santana was pushed out by Quan as her city administrator, the story seemed different. Santana, too, was unhappy with leading the city for some time. She made public overtures for jobs in Dallas and Phoenix and was passed over for both. The damage was done and Quan made the move. Santana’s assistant Fred Blackwell, a well-liked and capable technocrat, was elevated and the city’s progressive community appeared content. But, now the story has come full circle to evoke the stunning merry-go-round at the police department a year ago. On Wednesday, Blackwell said he was leaving his dream job in Oakland for greener pastures at a San Francisco non-profit. It only took Blackwell three weeks to determine his dream may have been more of a nightmare. The news may also be a tipping point for Quan’s tenuous political future.

Fred Blackwell

Going into April, just seven months before Election Day, Quan’s re-election is anything but a sure bet, but her chances have been vastly understated by many. Quan still maintains the power of the incumbency and ,thereby, she controls and solely benefits from anything remotely positive that occurs from here to Election Day. You might say, conversely, anything negative only sticks to Quan, too, but the city’s negatives are already ingrained in voter’s mind. Say, a murder spree inflicts Oakland this summer, that’s not necessarily a fresh narrative as it relates to Quan’s administration. 

However, the imagery of the rats jumping ship at City Hall is a narrative that may begin to coalesce after Blackwell’s departures this week. Does anybody want to work with Quan? Is she incapable of leading her own administration? Most striking, her opponents can now respond rhetorically, and with ominous wonder, what exactly is going on at City Hall? Any one of 15 potential challengers to Quan’s could easily label her the “Worst Boss in America,” both in serious and wildly comic tones.
Another way Blackwell’s departure could severely hurt Quan’s re-election is with the Raiders and Coliseum City. Since last December, Quan has frequently mentioned her goal of signing a stadium deal with the football team sometime this summer. Fairly or not, the statement is ostensibly a promise to voters and fans the team will remain in Oakland. However, Blackwell is the city’s most knowledgeable mind on Coliseum City, along with deflecting the Warriors potential move to San Francisco. Now that he’s gone there exists an enormous dark cloud over 66th Avenue and Hegenberger Road. And it’s not clear who at City Hall possesses even a small percentage of his expertise on the complicated land deal that may have to occur before even one stadium is built at the current Coliseum complex.

In addition, if Blackwell’s reported ability to ring a conciliatory tone in negotiations is lost, how will he cajole the Raiders to make the concessions needed? Who, for instance, will facilitate selling a portion of the team to potential stadium investors, along with working with some of the most combative members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to swing a deal to sell the Coliseum property to those same investors?

If the Raiders leave, then voters can just add them to a list of important people and entities who have bailed on Quan starting with former police chief Howard Jordan and followed by Capt. Anthony Toribio, Deanna Santana, Fred Blackwell and maybe a debilitating portion of Quan’s coalition of supporters needed for another four years in office.

Categories: Coliseum City, Deanna Santana, Fred Blackwell, Howard Jordan, Jean Quan, Mark Davis, November election, Oakland, Oakland PD, Raiders, re-election, resignation, violent crime

19 replies

  1. Coliseum City will never happen- a football stadium can not support it- Raiders only play 12 games a year at home and there are few other events for a outdoor football stadium in Bay Area. Raiders should play at Levi Stadium, let A's move to San Jose or somewhere else and build a “LA Live” type development around Oracle where the Warriors should stay at


  2. While I don't like Quan, Blackwell should have never taken job if he knew there was another offer coming. Shame on him


  3. Rumor has it Jean is very difficult to work with. The only tipping point for Quan's re-election chances would be if Kaplan jumped into the race. The only poll I heard about showed her beating Quan, but no one else.


  4. Where you been bro? Quan has long readed the tipping point. Get off your bar stool and start looking around you.


  5. I think that this article underscores the situation being experienced by many people who work for politicians all across Alameda County right now. The politicians in the county are incredibly toxic right now, I mean they are just downright nasty and clueless. What's more they are resistant to education. Alameda County including Oakland will not get anywhere unless someone comes along with a new voice and starts getting the politicians running the various levels of government to start thinking about the needs of the people instead of themselves.


  6. 5:15 PM–You telling it like it T. I. S.


  7. @ 3:29 said the same when Batts left, the same when Santana left and they say the same about all people who leave Quan's side. They should all be ashamed except for Quan.


  8. I heard Santana was extremely difficult to work with also.


  9. Blackwell takes the job that pays a lot more money with few of the headaches he would have as city administrator. Plus he avoids the political uneasiness of working in city where his family (Angela and David) have held political sway for so long. Oakland has a long history of keeping top staff even before Jean. Working for politicians isn't that difficult. Look at the long tenure that Ed Lee, as City Administrator, and his successor have had in SF.
    The SF Foundation is a great organization and all of us in the Bay Area will benefit from his background, professionalism and desire to assist those in need and help us all move forward.


  10. Anybody other than Floyd sticking with Jean Quan?

    The clock is ticking. She has no time to appoint a new permanent city administrator. She has no time to appoint a new permanent police chief.
    Add that to the clear fact that she herself has zero skills when it comes to running anything and you have a mayor asking that she be re-elected…when her current term is ending up in shambles.

    With such a mess after 4 years, why would anyone expect the next 4 years to be any better with her at the helm?

    Pray that she is replaced. Ideally she would come in 3rd if this was a 'top two' election. Ranked choice is the wild card.


  11. By MW:

    While Oakland could waste the huge amounts of time, money, and effort to do nationwide searches in attempts to find highly qualified people to fill the positions of Police Chief and City Administrator, however I have a much better idea.

    Since it seems whoever they hire for certain positions cannot get along for any length of time with Jean Quan, instead Oakland should purchase a big box and four hundred thousand sheets of paper.

    On each sheet of paper would be written the name of one of Oakland's residents and then all of those 400K sheets of paper would be placed in the box.

    Every morning at 7AM sharp two of those sheets of paper would be drawn from the box and one of those persons whose name was drawn would the Administrator for the next twenty four hours and the other one would be the Police Chief.


  12. Jean will win. No one else has the money or unanimous support from a large community base like the Chinese community. Would be shame if Oakland had 2 one term Mayor's in a row.


  13. “No one else has the money or unanimous support from a large community base like the Chinese community.”

    There has long been a big disconnect between “the Chinese community” and Jean Quan. By and large Oakland's Chinese voters are astute; Quan does not fool them.


  14. Jean Quan will win and still very connected to the Chinese community. Other candidates are weak, besides point fingers NO ONE be able come up better solutions. So, what make them better or smarter?


  15. 1:41 and 9:23 seems to have gotten into the liquor cabinet.


  16. 10:25AM

    you seem have too much MJ pancakes and LSD OJ for breakfast.


  17. I don't like Jean Quan but Batts should have never been hired with his domestic violence charges from Long Beach.


  18. 5:15, Yes! Agreed.


  19. Talk has it Jean is extremely troublesome to work with. The main tipping point for Quan's re-race chances might be if Kaplan hopped into the race.
    For more details please visit
    Political News US // Current political Issues


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