Oakland Council Needs to Tone Down the Jealousy

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Oakland City Council members apparently think they’re too good to sit on the same dais as Mayor Jean Quan at their meetings. Quan had promised voters during the campaign to attend council meetings if she became mayor — as did ex-state Senator Don Perata and Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan — in part because citizens had grown frustrated that Ron Dellums rarely came to meetings when he was the city’s chief executive. But council members apparently want Quan to sit in the crowd and not with them when she’s on hand.

Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson reported today that Council President Larry Reid ordered the removal of a dais nameplate for Quan after receiving complaints from other council members. They were miffed apparently because they believed that Quan wanted to both be mayor and remain a councilmember in violation of the city charter.

But Quan told the Express today that she was merely trying to live up to her campaign promise and thought it made sense for her to have a seat at the council dais whenever she attended meetings, since Jerry Brown used to sit there on occasion, too, she said. “If they don’t want me to sit on the dais like Jerry did, fine,” she said. “I’ll stand on the floor and sign-up for my three minutes (of public speaking) like any other constituent.”

Quan said she plans to attend about one council meeting a month, and will advocate personally for proposals that come from her office. But she said she does not plan to stay for entire meetings, nor will she interfere with usual council business. She also noted that the nameplate created by the city clerk’s office can be removed and then put in place whenever she’s in attendance. “I made a campaign promise,” she said. “The reality is that people want the mayor to be more visible at council meetings.”

Reid told the Express that he views the controversy as much ado about nothing. Council members just wanted to make sure that Quan understood that she doesn’t have a permanent spot on the council dais anymore, he said. But when asked whether he would invite Quan to sit at the dais when she showed up or require her to remain in the crowd, he responded: “That’s a question that I’ll have to raise with my colleagues.”

Some council members apparently are jealous that Quan won the mayor’s race. Several of them decided not to run because they figured no one could beat Perata. And now they’re having a hard time coping with the fact that Quan did so. It’s time for them to grow up. After four years of having a detached mayor, Oakland citizens want a leader who shows up for city business. And as the elected mayor, Quan deserves a seat at the table.

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