Dellums sworn in; De La Fuente reelected
Ron Dellums' formal inauguration kicked off only eight minutes late to a packed, but not nearly full, Paramount Theater. The School Board was sworn in, and they reelected District Two member David Kakishiba as President. City Auditor Courtney Ruby was sworn in, and gave a perky speech promising to work hard and dramatically expand public knowledge of "what works, and what doesn't work." Reelected City Councilmembers Pat Kernighan, Jean Quan, and Desley Brooks took their oaths of office; while the first two brought only immediate family members to stand with them, Desley Brooks asked 32 people to stand behind her. In her well-received speech, she thanked her district and her staff members.
The main event, of course, was the election of the City Council President. Nineteen speakers (and one speaker without a card) addressed the Council and the audience, with most of them urging a vote for Nancy Nadel (who was not nominated) or for "change." Several of the speakers were extraordinarily rude, going on well over their comment period while eviscerating Mr. de la Fuente for not involving "the public." The audience (though not me) may have found it ironic that, while speaking in favor of public comment, the speakers demonstrated the rude, disrespectful and unproductive nature of so much of the public comment the Council receives. Rebecca Kaplan, of the AC Transit Board, noted that her below-the-radar agency rotates the Board Presidency and makes committee appointments by consensus; while that may work for a public agency, the chaos of even this mini-meeting demonstrates that the Council, as a policy-making body, needs a firm hand on the reins.
Sanjiv Handa blamed Mr. de la Fuente (in whose favor only three people spoke) for what he said is "the lightest meeting schedule of any city council in the United States," which is hard to believe. Later, he called the councilmembers up for reelection in two years De La Fuente's "henchpeople," and accused them of "excluding the public every step of the way." Defending the city staff's report on the condo conversion act, he said that council did not need additional legislative analysts, since they do a "very poor job of analysis." Those of different political viewpoints may argue the exact opposite (ie, the poor staff report on condo conversions is a reason to hire additional legislative analysts), but of course Mr. Handa is entitled to his opinion. With the comment period concluded, Desley Brooks introduced a substitute motion to appoint Larry Reid council president, which failed. Ignacio de la Fuente was then reelected Council President on a vote of 6 - 2, with only Reid and Brooks voting no.* Nadel's vote for him was greeted with catcalls and cries of "coward!"
Mayor Dellums felt compelled to interject himself as the audience cried for Ignacio's head, saying that "we must go forward in a civil manner, with a civil discourse." It is this uncivil discourse that Mr. Handa and others (like Ken Katz) defended in their comments against Ignacio being council president. Larry Reid, appearing hurt that Ignacio voted against the motion to make him president, promised that we "will see a new Larry Reid," which met with applause from the audience. Ms. Nadel, defending her vote for Ignacio, said "the council isn't there yet," referring to the five votes leftist advocates would need for their divisive and radical agenda. Pat Kernighan told the audience that they shouldn't assume Ignacio is their enemy, since "the entire council is excited to support Mayor Dellums and work together."
Mayor Dellums' address, which refreshingly lacked many of his campaign-trail cliches, explicitly rejected laying out an agenda or priorities for his administration, since we "must focus on all the issues simultaneously." Perhaps referring to his narrow, racially polarizing victory, called for Oaklanders to "delight in our diversity but not be paralyzed by parochialism." He also committed to seeking additional resources from philanthropists like Bill Gates and from Washington DC. Acknowledging the important perspective of young people (among whom I count myself), he remembered that "when I was West Oakland Ronnie D, I knew what's happening," but now is mystified by the world of "instant communication" with which young people have grown up. He repeated his promise to "appoint young people to every board and commission in Oakland."
On the whole, the ceremony was lovely, but marred by the rude and divisive comments made by public speakers and through the audience's catcalls, particularly those made by Sanjiv Handa and other backers of Ms. Nadel. Her own vote and speech reflected the consensus of our elected officials that we do need to move forward effectively, and ignore artificial and ideological divisions. While she and some in the audience clearly looked forward to the elections of 2008, the newly elected officials on the dias are eager to get to work on the problems of today.
* I incorrectly reported at 2:43 that Ignacio was reelected 7 - 1 (Brooks).