A New Day in Oakland

Larry Reid becomes council president as Jean Quan is sworn in as mayor. Plus, Jerry Brown's budget plan would kill Oakland's ballpark proposal.

The big draw at Oakland’s historic Fox Theater on Monday was the inauguration of Jean Quan as the city’s first woman and first Asian-American mayor. But the big surprise was the election of longtime Councilman Larry Reid to be president of the council. Reid, who has served on the council for fourteen years, won by unanimous consent and succeeded Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who had been president since January 2009.

The position of council president is considered one of the most influential in Oakland city government — after the mayor. The council president is the official leader of the council, and in the past, has been the council’s main point person in dealing with the mayor’s office. The council president also presides over council meetings and coveted council committee assignments.

Reid’s election as president came just before Quan was sworn in as mayor at a joint city council/school board meeting at the lavishly restored Fox. Although Reid backed Quan’s main rival, ex-state Senator Don Perata, for mayor, Reid and Quan have had a close working relationship over the years. “Madame Mayor,” Reid said to Quan during Monday’s event, “I want you to know, the council is committed to working with you.”

Quan’s relationship with Brunner soured during the mayor’s race when Brunner openly campaigned for Perata. Although Reid endorsed Perata, too, he maintained close ties with Quan, quietly helping her campaign, sources said.

Reid had made a run at council president in 2007, but lost to Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who served as council president for ten years. Then, in 2009, Brunner won the council presidency. This time, however, Reid appeared to forge an alliance with De La Fuente and Councilwoman Desley Brooks.

First, De La Fuente nominated Brooks to be vice mayor. For council watchers, the move was the culmination of an odd relationship. Throughout much of the last decade, De La Fuente and Brooks had been sworn enemies, but then in recent years, the two have voted often with each other on major issues. After De La Fuente nominated Brooks, she was elected vice mayor by unanimous consent of the council. In Oakland, the vice mayor takes over for the mayor when she’s out of town or leaves office.

After Brooks won the vice mayor’s job, she nominated Reid for president. Then after Reid won, De La Fuente took the remaining leadership position on the council — president pro tempore. The president pro tempore fills in for the council president when he’s out of town or can’t attend a council meeting. In the end, Brunner was shut out of the council leadership positions.

On the school board, Gary Yee was unanimously reelected board president. Board member Jody London was elected vice president.

As for her inaugural speech, Quan appeared confident and at ease in front of the large crowd. She called on Oakland residents to volunteer in their communities, urging them to form neighborhood crime-watches and help clean up their blocks. She also asked residents to join volunteer organizations, “shop Oakland,” and “discover Oakland” by visiting neighborhoods they’ve never seen or attending local events for the first time.

Quan also pitched her plan to recruit 2,000 volunteer mentors to work with troubled Oakland youth. “I’m asking you to come to City Hall tonight to sign up for this campaign,” she said to the audience. She later held an open house at City Hall. Quan, who served twelve years on the Oakland school board before joining the council in 2002, said she plans to “put children at the heart of politics and the business of Oakland.”

Brown’s Plan Would Kill Ballpark

As mayor of Oakland, Jerry Brown used tens of millions of dollars in redevelopment funds to help revitalize the city, including restoring the Fox Theater. But the Sacramento Bee reported this week that as governor, Brown wants to eliminate local redevelopment agencies to help close the state’s $28 billion budget gap. Under Brown’s plan, local redevelopment agencies, which transform blighted urban areas, would cease to exist and the tax money they collect would return to the state.

The proposal would kill numerous urban projects funded by redevelopment money throughout California. Among them is Oakland’s proposal for a new ballpark for the A’s in Jack London Square. That stadium project requires redevelopment money for land acquisition and infrastructure upgrades.

It’s unclear whether Brown’s proposal would need voter approval. But if it goes through, it wouldn’t be the first time that Brown torpedoed a plan for a new A’s ballpark. In 2002, he pushed through a large housing project on a spot of land eyed for a new A’s stadium in the city’s Uptown district. And to help pay for the housing, Brown used — you guessed it — redevelopment money.

Three-Dot Roundup

Brown also called UC execs who are threatening to sue if they don’t get promised pension increases “very out of touch.” … The Alameda City Council voted to put Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and City Attorney Teresa Highsmith on paid leave. … Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley announced that she will not appeal a judge’s ruling that dismissed the gun enhancement conviction of ex-BART cop Johannes Mehserle in the fatal shooting of train-rider Oscar Grant. … Richmond police reported a sharp drop in violent crime in 2010, much like Oakland. … The CHP reported that drunken-driving arrests and fatalities declined dramatically this year. … And the 2010 holiday shopping season was the best in several years as more people bought gifts with their smartphones.


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