This past Wednesday I had the honor of meeting with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to hear about her administrative priorities and to examine how the City and the philanthropic community might work together. This gathering was organized and hosted by Quinn Delaney of the Akonadi Foundation, Nicole Taylor of East Bay Community Foundation, and James Head of the San Francisco Foundation. They invited senior staff from ten or so local foundations and philanthropic entities who make grant and program investments in Oakland. While preparing for the meeting, I was pleased (and a little surprised) to find that over the past four years the Kapor Foundation made about $2 million in grants to Oakland-based nonprofits, many of whom are our key partner organizations. This track record is important to us, as we want to be an appropriate and useful contributor to our future home community.
In her presentation, Mayor Quan highlighted the priorities outlined in the New Dreams, New Ways plan for the city, focusing on three in particular: transparent and efficient government; city and school district alignment and support of the most “at-risk” youth; and neighborhood safety. She acknowledged the complex challenges of implementing this agenda in the city’s current fiscal and political climate, but seemed completely undaunted by those potential barriers and prepared to move thoughtfully and determinedly ahead.
I was probably most impressed by the way Mayor Quan connected her personal journey as a social justice activist to her plans for governance. It was quite clear that she deeply loves and is committed to the city of Oakland. Most of the attendees, in our introductions to one another, also expressed a great appreciation for Oakland as an already-vibrant community with great potential. I left the meeting hopeful that as the government, business, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors continue to work together, we can bring about the changes and growth that the Mayor envisions. Go Oaktown! Go Oaktown!