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Quan Says Oakland 'On The Rise' In Speech, Ignores Occupy

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Mayor Jean Quan said Oakland is a city "on the rise" in a State of the City address Wednesday night that was full of optimism but short on specifics.

Quan didn't mention the Occupy Oakland protests that have brought national and even international attention to her city except to obliquely say that the city has experienced "lots of turns" and "challenges."

Quan also didn't mention the two recall efforts against her or talk about Oakland's crime problem, which includes five homicides in the past week, until the end of her 50-minute speech, which was 20 minutes longer than the 30-minute goal she set in a briefing with reporters earlier in the day.

When she addressed public safety, which she said was one of the top priorities residents talked to her about in the many community meetings she has held since becoming mayor a year ago, Quan said, "We have to reduce homicides and violence in the city."

She also said Oakland's Police Department must comply with reform measures that were mandated in the settlement of a misconduct case nine years ago.

Quan reiterated the goal she first expressed in her inaugural address a year ago of concentrating on reducing crime in the 100 most dangerous blocks in Oakland, where she said 92 percent of the city's shootings and homicides occur.

Quan called on Oakland residents to volunteer in schools and libraries in those areas to mentor youths who could be prone to lives of crime. She said she had asked for 2,000 volunteers last year and about 1,000 people stepped forward so she is now seeking at least another 1,000 volunteers.

She said reducing crime in those 100 blocks may seem impossible to some people but she said, "It's noble, it's doable and it's something we must do."

Quan said, "If we do it we'll change the cycle of violence in this city forever."

The mayor said she thinks Oakland is on the rise "because the economic numbers look better," as 5,000 new jobs were generated in the past year, the unemployment rate has dropped by 2 percent, building permits have increased, sales tax revenue increased by 12.4 percent and hotel tax revenues increased by 11.5 percent.

Quan also said, "Oakland has some of the best weather in the world" and she's excited that the New York Times named it the fifth best place in the world to visit and Newsweek named it the second most "can-do" city in the nation in terms of business development, sustainability, livability, transportation and infrastructure.

Quan added that her city has a thriving restaurant industry and mentioned that the New York Times said it has "the hottest restaurants in the Bay Area."

"We're trying to change the face of Oakland," Quan said. "Oakland is one of the most tolerant and diverse cities in the world and that's not our reputation."

Quan said when she became mayor Oakland had a $58 million deficit and few reserves but it has now balanced its budget and has its largest reserve in a decade.

She thanked city employees for taking a 10 percent pay cut, saying, "We balanced the budget with the sacrifices of city workers."

Quan said that in balancing the budget she and other city leaders reorganized the city's structure, merged departments and eliminated 350 positions.

Quan said that in addition to reducing crime, her goals for the next year include creating more affordable housing, strengthening mortgage and foreclosure laws, bringing in more retailers and keeping all three of Oakland's professional sports franchises.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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