OAKLAND -- Mayor Jean Quan pledged Thursday night to make Oakland streets safer and ensure that all residents benefit from a rebounding economy.
In her final State of the City address before facing voters in November, Quan said Oakland was making strides against crime and presented her administration as the architect of the city's post-recession economic turnaround.
"The last few years I said we were rising," Quan said. "We're booming now and everyone needs to share in the prosperity."
While many residents are dissatisfied with Quan's stewardship of the city, the mayor sought to contrast Oakland's current situation with the budget crisis it faced when she took office three years ago.
As signs of success, Quan pointed to job gains, rising revenue and several major development projects including the Foothill Square shopping center in East Oakland and the 3,100-unit Brooklyn Basin housing project near Jack London Square.
She also announced the launching of a second 10K Plan, referencing Mayor Jerry Brown's trademark 1998 initiative to bring 10,000 new residents into the city center. The city has 1,000 housing units under construction, Quan said, and another 6,500 units in the pipeline.
Quan is facing a crowded field of challengers this November, buoyed by polls that show only about one-fifth of voters want her re-elected. The mayor's speech Thursday marked one of her last opportunities to directly address an electorate that has held her responsible for the city's handling of the 2011 Occupy encampment and a surge in crime.
There were roughly 12,000 more major crimes reported during Quan's first three years as mayor than during the last three years of former Mayor Ron Dellums' time in office. Robberies have surged over the last two years to levels unseen since the crack epidemic of the early 1990s.
And despite stepped-up efforts to hire more police officers, an uptick in retirements and resignations has left the understaffed police department with only a few more officers than the 611 it had at this time last year.
Quan called crime fighting her top priority. "How we make Oakland safer will define the future of this city," Quan said, stressing the need both for more police and better trust between officers and residents.
The mayor noted that almost 100 recruits were scheduled to graduate police academies by the middle of this year. She also touted the city's Ceasefire program, which she has credited for last year's drop in murders and shootings.
Quan said she met Thursday with the police department's federal overseer and was told that the department was closer than ever to satisfying a court-mandated reform drive.
Quan was upbeat as she gave her address from the City Council chambers, a venue where she carries little political clout. Among those in attendance were two of the mayor's challengers in the upcoming election, City Auditor Courtney Ruby and Councilwoman Libby Schaaf.
Schaaf questioned whether Quan's development plans could truly transform the city unless residents felt safe and certain that police will respond quickly to their calls. "Building housing is great, but it needs to be done on a foundation of public safety," she said in a text.
Quan touted many positive developments in the city, including new affordable housing construction, a flourishing culinary scene, and renewed efforts to keep the Oakland A's and Oakland Raiders in town.
With more construction projects anticipated, Quan stressed the expansion of opportunities for city residents, especially students. She touted efforts to help residents, especially in low-income communities, get a leg up on construction work.
"Our young people are ready to work," Quan said. "And we need to make sure they get those jobs."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.