By Ken A. Epstein
While most of our neighbors are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving, Oakland’s Mayor elect Jean Quan is working furiously to prepare to step into her new role as chief executive of the city.
On top of her busy schedule of meetings and meeting with community leaders are the large numbers of requests for media interviews, some coming from reporters as far away as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Shanghai who are fascinated by Quan’s status as a pioneering Chinese American mayor of a major U.S. city.
To come to grips with Oakland’s still catastrophic unemployment rate, Quan says she believes that the city’s upcoming development projects, including the Oak to 9th Street, the airport connector and the Oakland Army Base projects, can provide many Oakland residents with jobs for six to 10 years, if local hiring rules are strictly enforced and companies are not allowed to avoid, sidetrack or dead-end the new workers
“I want to make sure it is tracked, and (the newly hired workers) get all the way through the program to get their union cards, guaranteeing compliance of the city and unions,”said Quan in an interview with the Post. “They have to be able get through the apprenticeship get their union cards.
A former Board of Education member who spent three terms governing the Oakland Unified School District, Quan’s priorities include close relations with school officials and city support for school reform.
“I want to see the city cabinet and cabinet of the school district meeting together regularly to discuss key issues where we can make a difference, such as truancy, school safety and internships,” she said.
“We’re already in partnership with the schools in clinics and Safe Passages (a school-based violence prevention program),” she said. “My dream is to pick one of the most poverty impacted neighborhoods and do something in the neighborhood like the Harlem Dream Zone, starting with support for pregnant women and young children ages one to three to break the cycle of poverty.”
“The challenge is how to do it when there’s no new money.”
Quan is looking forward to starting a project that utilizes volunteer mentors to find mentors for the young who are the most in need of support and are often causing many of the problems in schools and the community.
“We can end a lot of the troubles we have if we find 2,000 volunteers for the toughest kids,” she said, defining that group of youth as the 500 young people who are arrested each year; the 300 who age out of fosters care and have no support waiting for them; and the1200 who miss 20 or more days of school.
As proof that this program would work, she cites evidence that less intensive diversion programs are shown to cut youth recidivism by at least one half.