OAKLAND -- More than 225 West Oakland residents came out Saturday to tell Mayor Jean Quan their concerns about crime, education, the environment and a host of other issues.
The 2 ½-hour session at West Oakland Middle School was the first of five such meetings Quan has promised to hold around the city in her first 100 days in office. She also pledged to hold at least one per year in each of the city's seven council districts.
"I think it went pretty well," she told the crowd after breakout groups reported back on specific issues.
She said her staff will write up the input from Saturday's session over the next few weeks, separating the short- from the long-term, linking participants to existing programs that might meet their needs and prioritizing new initiatives for the cash-strapped city's budget process.
Among the best-attended of the breakout groups was for public safety, where residents voiced concerns about armed robberies, especially near the West Oakland BART station, gang activity and drug-dealing. They suggested police sting operations, walking groups, better lighting, real-time Internet cameras, and, of course, more police officers as possible solutions.
Another group dealing with jobs and economic development discussed initiatives for local hiring requirements, finding sustained funding for job training, attracting a grocery story to the area and improving wages. A beautification, blight and parks working group called for an informational campaign to combat illegal garbage dumping, as well as better enforcement against and more redevelopment for blighted, abandoned properties and lots.
Other groups dealt with youth issues; the Port of Oakland and former Oakland Army Base; education; housing and homelessness; and environmental issues.
Quan moved from group to group, listening in and snapping photos, occasionally stopping to chat with residents. Almost all seemed to receive her warmly.
West Oakland resident and McClymonds High School Assistant Principal Karen Todd said she has known Quan for many years, dating back to her time on the Oakland Unified School District's board, and was "very impressed" by the turnout and energy at Saturday's meeting.
"It's nice to have things regenerated this way," Todd said. "She gets things done."
John Sander, who moved to West Oakland about a year and a half ago, agreed, and said the vibe was "certainly better than what we had in the last (mayoral) administration."
"I'm really glad to see this. Whether by circumstance or by plan, I'm glad she hit our neighborhood first," he said.
Quan also used the meeting to introduce city department heads and her office's staff to residents, and at one point said the city had "just started our national search for a police chief" -- correcting herself to say "fire chief" after a few people yelled it out. Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts on Friday confirmed he would stay on the job, after weeks of speculation that he might leave.
"That was a slip," she said, laughing.