OAKLAND | MAYOR | Last week, Libby Schaaf stung Quan, both as mayoral candidate and member of the Oakland City Council in a pair of correspondence. However, while one letter sent by Schaaf to the mayor sent a message containing the strategy she hopes leads to Quan’s ouster this fall, a separate, but similar newsletter to her constituents sounds quite similar and threads the line between mixing city business with her forthcoming campaign for mayor.
Writing in her district newsletter, Schaaf wrote, “Usually I try to keep this newsletter cheery, but today I need to let off some steam.” She then described the turnover at City Hall during her three and a half years on the council. Five city administrators and potentially a fifth police chief since Quan was elected mayor in 2010. “It feels like Oakland’s management has been changing as often as Lady Gaga changes costumes,” wrote Schaaf. In the same letter, Schaaf laments the city’s shrinking police force, which is also the subject of another letter she sent directly to Quan.
Last Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the contents of a letter sent by Schaaf to Quan. In the one-page memo, Schaaf excoriates Quan for claiming the city’s funding levels for police officers were at their lowest at the start of her administration. Schaaf said Quan made this claim at the most recent police academy graduation and at the Apr. 3 public safety candidate’s forum.
“When I became Mayor, we were at the bottom of the recession, we had the lowest funding for police officers,” Quan is quoted in Schaaf’s letter to the mayor.
“This is simply not true,” Schaaf said. “The facts are: When you became Mayor we did not have ‘the lowest funding for police officers.'” Schaaf then wields the same hammer that likely finished former Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente’s 2012 run citywide against Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.
“Half a year after you became Mayor, you cast the tie-breaking vote to adopt a budget which funded the lowest number of police officers in years–knocking the force down to 613 budgeted police officers. I remember that vote well, since I had developed the budget alternative you refused to support–an alternative to fund more police officers.”
Schaaf’s letter to her constituents last week, however, contains the same argument condemning the few number of police officers on the streets, in addition, to her goal of reaching 700 officers by the end of the year. A clear reference is also made to the Quan administration’s failure in hiring and retaining officers on the streets.
“Last year our police force reached its lowest staffing in 35 years at just 609 officers,” she writes. “This year the force was down again to only 611 officers. This has not just been due to a lack of funding. This year there was funding budgeted for 675 officers — that’s 64 more officers that could have been on Oakland’s streets this year if the administration had been more effective in hiring new officers and retaining the ones we already have. This is why I wrote Oakland’s Full Police Staffing Policy. I’m hopeful plans are in place now to reach our full budgeted staffing of more than 700 officers this fall.”
Aside from being one of the sharpest campaign jabs made by any of Quan’s 15 potential challengers yet, it also highlights the slippery slope council candidates face when they oppose incumbent colleagues, in terms, of separating the race from their duties as a council member. Both correspondence, especially the constituent newsletter, include similar campaign-related rhetoric that enters a confusing ethical gray area for voters. Similarly, Quan’s own newsletters have been questioned in the past by some for appearing to look and sound like re-election materials.
Members of Congress are often accused of a similar allegation when using taxpayer-funded franking privileges to flood constituents with mailers that sometimes look more like re-election materials than updates and services offered by the representative in the area.
NOTE: An addition was made to the article regarding Quan’s own newsletters.