The Interview: Oakland Mayor Jean Quan

The Mayor talks about Occupy, the recall effort and what keeps her dedicated to the city she has called home for more than 30 years.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area's Raj Mathai goes one-on-one with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in a candid interview. The Mayor talks about Occupy Oakland, the recall effort and looking ahead. (Published Friday, Jun 8, 2012)

    Ever since the Occupy controversy, there's been a code of silence at Oakland's City Hall.  Mayor Jean Quan has declined all one-one-one interviews, until now. In a very candid interview, she sat down with NBC Bay Area anchor, Raj Mathai.

    "You've been around for awhile, and you're a tough cookie and you're smart," Raj said. He then asked, "Going into the job as mayor, did you expect it to be this challenging both positively and negatively?"

    "I knew that we hadn't had a mayor that knew the city in a long time, and I thought on one hand that would be a step up," Mayor Quan said adding, "Obviously, I didn't expect Occupy. I didn't expect redevelopment would be eliminated."

    Quan started her political career as a concerned mom, shepherding her kids through Oakland's public schools. More than twenty years later, she made international headlines, edging out Don Perata in the 2010 election. But soon after shattering the glass ceiling in Oakland, Quan's good fortune  quickly turned to misfortune.

    Quan recalled the night when the Oakland Police Department moved in on the Occupy Camp saying, "I get off at SFO, turned on my phone, and there's a text from my daughter saying, 'Mom tell them to stop tear gassing the demonstrators,' and I'm like what the hell happened here?"

    While she does not condone what happened that night, Quan does explain it from her point of view. She says, "Most of my officers are peaceful people and participate in the constitutional policing as we say, and most of our Occupy demonstrators were peaceful, but there was a small group on each side that were involved in conduct not non-violent and there would be consequences on both sides, so, that was really very tough."

    Raj then asked, "Were you surprised because of the equity you had in the community, the way you were vilified by the Occupier decisions?"

    Mayor Quan answered, "Most of the Occupiers aren't from Oakland to begin with. We've been making these arrests to people who have been vandalizing the city. I think we arrested 88 people and only eleven of them have been from Oakland."

    Raj followed-up with this question, "You're an optimist obviously you're a fighter. What do you tell those people right now, what do you say to some in  your own City council that you would be better out of office?"

    "Actually, none of them are saying that publicly. Some of them would like to be the Mayor, so they can run against me in four years," Quan replied.

    "So you're confident you will overcome this recall?," Raj asked.
    "I think that there will be, they're a little behind in getting the signatures. I thought they would get the signatures, but they're not organized enough. They might, but they will have to pay a lot of money to do it," Mayor Quan replied.

    One thing that's not tough for Mayor Quan is her love and enthusiasm for the city. Raj asked her, "In person, your enthusiasm is contagious. Are you still enjoying what you're doing?"

    Without hesitation, Quan answered, "I love being the mayor of Oakland. Oakland is one of the most beautiful, most interesting, most diverse cities in the world, and when you're the mayor people open their doors and hearts to you in ways they just don't if you were another person."