Monday, September 26, 2011

If Jean Quan is a Piggy, How Can She Clean Up Oakland?

Sept. 26, 2011 | Just forget for a second that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan may have received a series of preferential look-aways from the city while other residents received fine for their blighted yards. Let's also move away from political jargon. A "blighted" residential home really means you live in a pigsty.

So, the mayor of Oakland is the loathed neighbor whose overgrown bougainvillea becomes a metaphor for their overbearing personality. I once had a next door neighbor who consistently neglected a swarming, gnarly berry bush that tunneled under our fence, latched itself to the wall and turned the side of my house into a literal urban jungle. Suffice to say, every spring I hated that neighbor and thought, if their yard looks like this, I can't imagine what it looks like inside!

So, what if Oakland has a mayor with some of the hallmarks of a hoarder? Well, if you believe the way a public official conducts themselves in private has no bearing on their duties at City Hall, then forgive the mayor and allow Oaklanders struggling in the Great Recession to visit "Jean's Amazonian Adventure: Oakland Ultimate Staycation!"

But that's not how the humans behave. It's why we judged the sexual peccadillos of President Bill Clinton over a decade ago. It's why we uttered a collective WTF when former Rep. Anthony Weiner passed along photos of his Oscar Meyer. Locally, it's why East Bay voters now have to ask themselves whether AC Transit Board Director Joel Young is worthy of a seat in the assembly after beating his former girlfriend. Personal conduct correlates almost perfectly to how an elected official conducts business in the name of the public good.

Not only does Quan not pay attention to the overgrown vegetation on her property, she also doesn't pay her parking tickets. Remember, shortly after the mayoral election last November when Quan received the Denver Boot on her sedan outside of City Hall. She forgot to pay thousands in parking citations just like she forgot to trim her bushes.

You could forgive her if the snafu was due to a lack of finances. Everybody has that problem nowadays, but not only is Quan receiving a queen's ransom for her services as mayor, her husband, Dr. Floyd Yuen, is one of the Bay Area's most prominent health officials. Yuen also sits on the Alameda County Medical Center Board of Directors. Unless, the Quan's also have a gambling problem, it is doubtful they could not spare a few hundred for the crew from Big Sal's Gardening & Landscape to break out the pruning shears.

As a colleague of mine, recently said, "If she doesn't take care of her own shit, how is she going to clean up Oakland's?" This is true, but I believe the magnitude of this embarrassment is bigger. Think about it, which is worse? Being caught shoving cigars into an intern's bread basket or having the entire community think you are a literally a dirty politician?

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