An effort to recall Oakland Mayor Jean Quan -- an unprecedented move in the city's recent history -- is officially in progress, but so far it only has about one-third of 1 percent of the support it would need to make the city hold an election.
Gene Hazzard, of the Oakland Black Caucus, is leading the effort. He filed 71 signatures with the city clerk Monday in an official notice of intent to circulate a recall petition.
After a process in which the mayor gets to respond to the notice, and the city confirms the validity of those signatures, Hazzard and other recall supporters will get the green light and a countdown clock: 160 days to collect almost 20,000 signatures from registered Oakland voters in support of a recall.
Hazzard's paperwork names several grievances with the mayor.
"She has willfully ignored the City's most pressing issue: public safety," the filing states. "She ignored the call of Oakland residents to significantly increase the number of police officers and instead supported a regressive $11 million parcel tax."
Charles Pine, of the group Oakland Residents of Peaceful Neighborhoods, signed the petition and echoed the complaint, criticizing Quan for her vote in June 2010 to lay off 80 police officers. Quan was then on the City Council, which was facing tense police union negotiations and a huge budget deficit, and the layoffs won by a 5-3 vote of the council.
Asked for comment on the recall effort, Quan
Hazzard also accused Quan of poor leadership in the massive Oakland Army Base development project, partly because of her recent decision to replace Port Commissioner Margaret Gordon, a move that angered many residents.
Piper did not specifically address the Army Base project but wrote that Quan "is working with business and community leaders on half a dozen major projects."
It's been a tumultuous month for Quan. Police Chief Anthony Batts quit without warning, and a phone poll of 500 residents commissioned by KPIX-TV CBS 5 reported that her job approval rating had dropped from 57 percent in April to 28 percent in October.
Several veteran City Hall employees said Monday they couldn't remember such a petition being filed in the past decade. An online poll to recall Mayor Ron Dellums was never officially submitted, City Clerk LaTonda Simmons said.
Corey Cook, an Oakland resident and a political science professor at the University of San Francisco, said recall efforts targeting mayors are not uncommon, but are rarely successful in big cities. In the past 20 years, he said, he has only heard of two big-city mayors being recalled: one in Flint, Mich., and the other in Omaha, Neb.
However, California's recall of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 was a record-breaker in several respects, Cook added, and Quan is also facing a unique public relations challenge. "People wonder how she won," Cook said.
Quan was the first successful Oakland mayoral candidate to benfit from the city's ranked-choice voting system. When the initial first-place vote tally came in, she ranked far behind candidate Don Perata, but no candidate had a majority, so voters' second-place preferences came into play. Quan ultimately garnered enough support to edge out a 50.98 percent win.
Though the vast majority of voters submitted ballots that were valid and counted under ranked-choice voting, Cook said the system is still new to voters, leaving many of them wondering whether Quan somehow gamed the election. In truth, Cook said, Quan's win was an example of exactly how the voting system is meant to work.
"But a lot of this comes back from the outcome of the election and this perception that on election night she hadn't won," Cook said. "And fairly or not, I think every decision she makes is couched in this 'how did she get to be mayor anyway' kind of language."
Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.