OAKLAND -- Entering the third year of a term overshadowed by rising crime and dwindling police resources, Mayor Jean Quan said Oakland is taking steps toward becoming a safer city.
In her annual State of the City address Wednesday, Quan talked about recent measures to help stem the tide against the recent jumps in burglaries, robberies and homicides and the toll crime has taken on residents.
"As mayor there is nothing more important to me than the safety of every individual in this city," she told the audience in the City Council Chamber.
In stark contrast to last year's speech when she didn't touch on police issues until the end of her remarks, Quan devoted the first third of her 70-minute address to
Quan praised recent initiatives to add a second police academy this year and hire more civilian workers in the Police Department. She also thanked Gov. Jerry Brown, county officials and U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag for working with Oakland police on crime suppression.
"We're working in a much smarter and more coordinated way than ever before," she said.
Quan also was bullish on Oakland's economy, which gained more than 5,000 jobs over the past year. She said that the Uptown arts and entertainment district was continuing to grow and that construction was finally slated to begin on the Oak-to-9th residential project.
The city still has major hurdles to climb.
Despite revenue growth, Oakland's
Quan warned that it would take "an amazing boom" for Oakland to have enough money to achieve its goal of growing the Police Department from the current staffing of 611 officers back to 800 within five years.
This past year wasn't quite as tumultuous for Quan as her first in office, which saw the birth of Occupy Oakland, a surge in crime and the sudden departure of popular police Chief Anthony Batts.
But there were still struggles. The city surrendered significant control of its beleaguered Police Department to a federal judge after failing to complete court-sanctioned reforms. The loss of city redevelopment funds to the state left a big hole in the city's budget, and Quan had to brush off a public relations disaster of her own making when it turned out that her 100-blocks crime-reduction plan was based on flawed figures.
On the plus side, the city moved ahead with redeveloping the former Oakland Army Base and avoided layoffs for the first time since the 2008 financial collapse.
This year, Quan's administration will have to negotiate new contracts with two
Quan also enters the new year with a City Council that is generally more amenable to working with her.
Before Quan's address Wednesday, Councilwoman Libby Schaaf praised the mayor for hiring a good executive team and providing honest reports about the state of city finances, but said she still needed to provide better leadership "when it comes to public safety."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.