Defeat of Mayor's Parcel Tax
Boosts Momentum for Recall

Measure I, the home parcel tax that Oakland mayor Jean Quan sponsored, went down to defeat on Nov. 15, 2011. The proposal had no binding language to ensure the money was spent for any particular basic services.

The rejection by voters adds to the mayor's failure to formulate, propose, and win support for a comprehensive solution to the City's structural fiscal problems and endless cutbacks in police staffing, park maintenance, and other basic services.

Mayor Quan's one-page "plan" for public safety, introduced at a heavily promoted Oct. 15 meeting at Laney College, has already been forgotten except in the mayor's occasional sound bites. When a mayor cannot fulfill the first task of a city government, enforcing safety on the streets, and when a mayor cannot deal with City finances, voters apparently decided that accepting a new tax would be unlikely to produce any palpable benefit.

Voters also rejected the other two measures on the mail-in ballot. Measure H was mayor Quan's grab for power by changing the city attorney from an elected position to an appointed one. Quan pushed the change after she refused to listen to city attorney John Russo when he told her and the city council that industrial marijuana was a direct challenge to federal law, the last thing that Oakland should grasp at for revenue. Russo also helped popular police chief Anthony Batts write a gang injunction proposal, while Quan meets with gang members in the offices of the mayor at City Hall.

Quan made the dispute with the city attorney into a personal one, illegally using private attorney Dan Siegel to conduct legal business for the office of the mayor. Russo resigned in June. Chief Batts resigned in October. Both were polite but made it clear that they were unable to work with mayor Quan. Ironically, Siegel, too, broke with Quan in November over her handling of the Occupy Oakland tent city at Ogawa Plaza.

The mayor has shown an increasing talent for isolating herself from every group of Oakland residents. Even the grandiose scheme for a political machine hatched by Quan's husband Floyd Huen, the so-called Block by Block Organizing Network, has been wracked by division and dropouts in response to the mayor's lack of principles.

Measure J, councilmember Libby Schaaf's pension gimmick, also failed to pass. Schaaf was never able to explain why extending pension amortization by two years at a cost of $24 million was a good idea, and her open alliance with Wall Street operators probably did not help the proposal.

Turnout for the mail-in ballot was a miserable 25 percent of registered voters. The low turnout helped Quan's Measure I because operators of social programs mobilized their staff to push for a Yes vote, but the boost was not enough to overcome voter discontent with mayor Quan's leadership failures. A stunning 62 percent voted against the Measure I parcel tax, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Ballot measures defeated. The next domino ... recall?

Mayor Quan, weakened by the ballot defeat and by almost universal anger at her flipflops on the tent city at Ogawa Plaza, now faces a movement to recall her from office before she does more damage to Oakland. Civic activists have come together to file papers for a recall petition, and they report they are swamped by Oakland residents asking where they can sign.

– Nov. 15, 2011

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