Thursday, February 28, 2013

State of the Whatever

Last night Jean Quan gave her State of the City. It was quite something (read: a hot mess). I never watch the presidential State of the Union speech- it seems to me like a bunch of blah blah blah we're awesome, here are some challenges, here's what I'm going to do, campaign blah blah blah, we're awesome, the opposite party sucks, blah blah blah, did I mention I'm awesome? But since the advent of twitter, I've been able to follow along and a) know exactly what the president (in this case Obama, I can't remember if Bush was around during twitter) is saying b) read what my smart tweeps have to say about what he's saying and c) know what he's not saying. It's amazing the real time fact checking that gets done during the State of the Union (SOTU). I wish I had written more closely after that event, and I could remember the things that he insinuated or glossed over, but Obama is smart: he carefully sounded both liberal and not "out there:" I'll support small businesses, I won't raise taxes, etc, but didn't mention actual taxes that would affect middle class families, or that his policies were all under cut by hostile interest groups and Republicans, or the drone strikes that were going on literally as he spoke.

But President Obama is an effective politician. It is almost impossible to discuss Quan and Obama in the same blog post, perhaps even offensive. What I realized last night, though, is that even when politicians are saying nothing, like in states of the whatever, the delivery is crucial.

I recommend watching a few minutes of this (it goes on for 73 minutes, and I don't recommend watching 73 minute of it without some hard liquor handy).

State of the City

Some observers last night thought that Mayor Quan was more lucid and coherent than usual. If true, this is even more disturbing than if, like me, you think this is just sort of par for the course. Mayor Quan starts out saying something to the effect of "I have lots of people to give shout outs [right?] to, so I'll save those for the end." But basically the entire night consisted of Quan calling out various audience members and having them stand and clap for each other. There weren't that many people in the audience, so it was remarkable how many of them got "shout outs," and Quan pretty vocally disparaged anyone who didn't show up ("He RSVP'd!"). The shout outs, it turned out, were the bulk of her speech, or at least a good half of it. At the least, they were enormous distraction: each time Quan even considered saying something important, she interrupted herself with a call out to one person or another. Politically unsavvy.

 Quan didn't seem to misstep or stumble over her words (although she does that constantly): the things that came out of her mouth are the things she really truly believes, they are who she is. First, she said that a bad day involved meeting with Lew Wolff, owner of the Oakland A's. Okay, few people have any nice feelings for Wolff, but as someone who should probably be making nice with him in order to you know, keep the A's in Oakland, the comment was just ridiculous. This reverberated around twitter. Then she really truly said that she was counting on universal health care to fix Oakland's budget. So much of the budget is tied up in pensions and health care (police and fire, city employees, etc), that this would be nice, wouldn't it? But it's some kind of delusional thinking to plan a city's budget on universal health care. She mentioned how thrilled she was to have Bob Wasserman coming to Oakland, both giving credence to the theory that she had supported his contract as a campaign move and alienating the many many citizens who had voiced opposition to Wasserman/Bratton. And most notably, she said she didn't think that it was fair that all these things had happened to her since her term started. She didn't specify, but one could only imagine she was referring to Occupy, the deficit, etc. Quan really has a sad life. And at one point, she talked about brisket. Yup, brisket. I could practically hear her mouth watering. And then she said that she had promised the women of East Oakland a place to shop. She meant that there will be a grocery store coming to the Deep East, but man, the word choice!

It was notable that Quan talked about some of the awesome things that Oakland is known for: the greenness of Oakland, the walkability and bikeability, the food (hence brisket), etc. She went on for a long time about how we're the city that gets knocked down and gets up again. But this part was, well, not pronounced.

Meanwhile, @fakejeanquan was fact checking and smack talking back on twitter along the hashtag #oaksotc. If states of the whatever are good for anything, it's now for community involvement and dialogue.