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Oakland Mayor Jean Quan In Las Vegas For ICSC, Why Hide It?

This is a bit of news that wasn't in the newspapers, mentioned on blogs (until now), or covered on Twitter, save for one wayward tweet by the Washington DC Economic Partnership at International Council Of Shopping Centers Spring Convention in Las Vegas, and not by the Mayor of Oakland herself.

As you can tell by the photo with Washington DC Mayor Mayor Vincent C. Gray and the attendance registration image, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was in Las Vegas for the same International Council Of Shopping Centers Spring Convention on Monday.

As one of four people who started the annual trend of the City of Oakland having a presence at ICSC to promote development in Oakland in 1997, it's great to know that Mayor Quan was there, but sad to know she's trying to hide the fact she attended.

Her name's on the file published by ICSC and you can see here, in addition to the photo.

And in the Twitter tweet, it's reported that Quan was at the Washington DC booth. Here's the tweet:

wdcep wdcep
DC's Mayor Gray and city of Oakland Mayor Quan at DC's booth #lasVegasICSC http://yfrog.com/h68f9opj

What happened in Vegas was that, according to sources, Oakland's Community and Economic Development Director Walter Cohen held a staff meeting this week and made what were described as "vague comments about the overwhelming size of the (Las Vegas) Convention Center and that some good things happened," and the source added "which of course means very little." Then one source added:

Don't expect anything solid to come out of this. The City, frankly, was unprepared to offer any opportunities / incentives that were particularly appealing. We were told by retail brokers that the Mayor should have been prepared to combat crime perceptions -- that if she were to dent these perceptions in any small way, it would be considered a success.

But at least he was there with Mayor Quan. But Walter should not be "media quiet" about such trips and efforts, because it's all good news that no one knows about.

Oakland's ICSC Started With Me, Sort Of

Now, all of that said, there's nothing wrong with the Mayor of Oakland attending ICSC, but everything wrong with hiding the trip. In 1997, California Capital Group Managing Partner Phil Tagami, Kofi Bonner, who was then Oakland's Economic Development Director, Oakland Councilmember (District Two), now former City Attorney, and now Alameda City Manager John Russo,  and I as the Economic Advisor To Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, started Oakland's short, annual habit of attending the 32,000-strong event in Vegas.

The first year, we, Oakland, didn't have a booth, but by 1998, we did. And that year at Las Vegas ICSC, and with Mayor Harris, Councilmember Larry Reid (District Seven), Mr. Bonner, and Mr. Tagami, then-new City Manager Robert Bobb, Albert Ratner, Co-Chairman Of The Board of Forest City, and several staff members from both the City of Oakland's Office of Economic Development and Employment and Forest City in the room, I made a presentation to bring Forest City to Oakland, but not to do housing - to do retail development in the form of a "Times Square Of The West."

What happened can be described in two words: Jerry Brown.

It was clear then, that Brown was going to be Mayor of Oakland, and has this idea that became the "10,000 housing units in downtown" or "10K" project, but didn't share that with me at the time, as he wasn't officially Mayor.

But that year he won the primary election, and by November, because he had won by such a large margin there was no need for a runoff election.

Oakland had a new Mayor named Jerry Brown.

So, by the time in late September of 1998 Forest City's then-representative Greg Vilkin (who's now with real estate developer MacFarlane Partners as Managing Director) and I took a tour of what is now the Uptown District, and was then called The Uptown Entertainment District (a named coined by Mayor Harris), Greg popped up with "Actually, we were thinking about housing," after first agreeing that the retail plan we initiated was "exciting" while in Las Vegas, I figured that Jerry stuck his nose in my deal in some kind of way.

I was major league pissed off, but that's another story for another time.   The point is, we made a big effort, and we didn't hide the fact that we were in Las Vegas from the newspapers then.  I personally called the Oakland Tribune to tell them about it.

Tagami, Bonner, and I worked to do promote Oakland at ICSC way back in 1997 and in the late 90s. What's going on that Oakland has to reinvent the wheel 14 years later?

Considering that Walter Cohen was an occasional consultant to Mayor Harris in 1996, it's clear he learned nothing from watching what we did back then.

Walter, I'm disappointed in you, man.

ICSC is a place where real estate developers show off their latest shopping center and retail projects to potential retail tenants, investors, and cities. And cities show off their latest economic development projects for the same reasons.  It's all for business and economic development.

Many Oakland business friends I talk to say that Quan doesn't talk to the business community.  I don't think she's being mean about it, just that she may be afraid to do often so because she doesn't know how.

It seems Jean's more comfortable dealing with battling Oakland's social problems, than negotiating with businesses to come to Oakland, build the economy, and reduce the welfare state.

It's clear that Mayor Quan needs to know that a trip to Las Vegas ICSC is not only something a Mayor of Oakland should do, but Oakland itself should be do to.

It's too bad that what we -Tagami, Bonner, and I - started 14 years ago, an economic development effort for the city, hasn't continued into the 21st Century.

While it's true that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, the Mayor of Oakland can't afford such secrecy.

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