In one of her first public appearances since she was sworn in as Oakland's new mayor, Jean Quan delivered an upbeat message to the Oakland Rotary Club, telling the audience, "I want you to take another look at Oakland," and outlining her plans for the city's economic redevelopment.
Quan said she wanted to attract more retail stores to the city and to open a new library in one of Oakland's poorest neighborhoods, acknowledging at the same time that the economy was still ailing.
"We're not going to be out of this recession quickly," Quan said. "We need to help each other."
Quan also mentioned the idea of building a stadium for Oakland's baseball team, the Oakland A's, a plan that is moving forward in the City Council. She emphasized that the cost of a new stadium would not be a drain on the city's general fund, unlike the Coliseum, which she said underwent renovations during Gov. Jerry Brown's tenure as mayor of Oakland.
Instead, she sugggested the new stadium would be funded by Oakland's redevelopment agency.
But with Brown's recent proposal to consider phasing out redevelopment agencies across the state by July 1, Quan's plans could mean a race against time.
Rotary Club members expressed excitement over the new mayor.
"I think she might be on to something," said Oakland resident and Rotary Club member Kathleen Cody. "She's being available. It's kind of refreshing, given our last mayor was kind of an absentee mayor."
In addition to redevelopment, Quan spoke about the importance of volunteerism and civic engagement in reducing crime in the city. She told the audience that she wanted Oakland citizens to volunteer for the city at least one hour a week.
She noted that the city's crime rate has been down over the last four years, thanks to efforts by the Oakland Police Department.
"I need you to thank the [department] for that," she said. "They feel unappreciated."
Quan's relationship with the police has been rocky, in part because of contentious contract negotiations she participated in as a council member.
At the end of the talk, Rotary President Jon Gresley presented Quan with an honorary membership and announced that the club had made a donation to the End Polio Now campaign in her honor. Club members responded with a standing ovation.
Quan is the first woman and the first Chinese American to be elected mayor of Oakland. She told the enthusiastic crowd that one of those firsts might be why the White House called her on Tuesday to invite her to a state dinner next week, at which Chinese President Hu Jintao will also be a guest.
"Maybe they were like, 'We should probably have some prominent Chinese Americans. Are there any new Chinese mayors?" Quan speculated. She added that she will be bringing San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee as her date, as her husband cannot come.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Oakland Coliseum was built when Jerry Brown was mayor; it was built before Brown's mayoralty. Quan's spokesperson clarified that she was referring to renovations made to the Coliseum in the 1990s.