Police Chief Anthony Batts stunned Oakland over the weekend with the revelation that he was one of two finalists to take over the San Jose Police Department. Some critics of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan immediately pointed to her as the reason for his possible departure, noting that she had voted in July to lay off eighty cops. But Batts' decision to apply for the San Jose police chief position apparently had nothing to do with Quan. He agreed to interview for the job before Quan was elected mayor of Oakland, Quan said Batts told her. "They sought him out in October," Quan said, referring to San Jose officials who recruited Batts.
That means Batts was looking to jump ship no matter who was in the Oakland mayor's office. Indeed, when he applied to the San Jose post in October, ex-state Senator Don Perata was the favorite to win the Oakland mayor's race.
Either way, finding a replacement for Batts will be one of the new mayor's first major tests if he leaves. Batts has only been on the job for a little more than a year, but crime has continued to drop during his watch. Quan also must deal with the intractable police union, which still refuses to contribute to its retirement plan like other city employees do.
Quan and the Council
The police department, however, isn't Quan's only tough task. She's also facing trouble from her old colleagues on the Oakland City Council, who apparently think they're too good to sit on the same dais with her at their meetings. Quan had promised voters during the campaign to attend council meetings if she became mayor — as did 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.
Last week, 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 as councilmember in violation of the city charter.
But Quan told the Express that she was merely trying to live up to her campaign pledge and thought it made sense for her to have a seat at the dais when she attended meetings, since Jerry Brown used to sit there on occasion, too. "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 from her office. But she said she doesn't plan to stay for entire meetings, nor will she interfere with usual council business. She also noted that the nameplate can be removed and then put in place when 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 knows she doesn't have a permanent spot on the dais anymore, he said. But when asked whether he would invite Quan to sit with the council or tell her to remain in the crowd, he responded: "That's a question that I'll have to raise with my colleagues."
Brown's Controversial Budget
Governor Brown's budget proposal shields big oil companies from higher taxes and protects the influential California Correctional Peace Officers Association from cuts, the Contra Costa Times reported. Democrats in the past have pushed for an oil drilling extraction fee — much like other states charge — but Brown abandoned that idea. And even though Brown's budget calls for across-the-board cuts, the governor is proposing to add $395 million to state prisons "to fully fund the salary and wages of authorized correctional officers, sergeants, and lieutenants."
Still, Brown's budget plan faces several hurdles. Cities throughout the state indicated that they plan to sue the governor to stop his proposal to dismantle redevelopment agencies, Capitol Weekly reported. Brown's plan would kill numerous revitalization efforts, including Oakland's plan to acquire land for a new A's ballpark. Brown's budget also faces stiff opposition from both Republicans and liberals because it calls for extending tax increases that are scheduled to expire this year, and would further shred the state's social safety net, force the closure of more state parks, and dramatically slash funding for higher education.
The one part of Brown's plan that seems uncontroversial is his proposal to spare K-12 education from the budget ax. Last week, Education Week reported that California ranks 43rd nationwide in per pupil spending, and 30th in academics. California also has the second highest paid teachers on average — $68,093 per year — in the nation, second only to New York
County prosecutors announced that they will not file drunken driving charges against Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente because of a lack of evidence. ... Quan created a stir when she appointed lawyer Dan Siegel to be her unpaid legal advisor. Siegel has been critical of some Oakland police practices in the past. ... An Oakland council committee asked City Attorney John Russo for a report on the North Oakland gang injunction to determine whether it has reduced crime. ... And the number of carpools on the Bay Bridge has dropped substantially since the toll authority began charging $2.50 last summer.