Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente has been missing in action in the past few months. According to City Hall’s independent reporter and gadfly Sanjiv Handa, he has repeatedly missed council committee meetings. The sudden absences are unusual for De La Fuente, who is passionate about city politics. During the Jerry Brown administration, many insiders believed he essentially ran the city.
Rumors have swirled around the rotunda that De La Fuente has been depressed since he lost decisively to Ron Dellums in last year’s mayoral election. But in a phone interview last week, De La Fuente called those rumors “bullshit.” Instead, he said he’s taken time off in the past few months to deal with family issues surrounding the recent conviction of his son, Ignacio De La Fuente Jr. on multiple rape charges. De La Fuente Jr. agreed to a plea deal that will send him to prison for fourteen years. “You can’t imagine how difficult it’s been,” the elder De La Fuente said. “On some days, it’s been incredibly difficult.”
Councilman Larry Reid, who had a falling-out earlier this year with De La Fuente over the council presidency, believes De La Fuente deserves plenty of slack. Despite the absences, Reid doesn’t believe his old friend has lost his desire to govern. “I think his passion is still there,” he says. “I just think it’s hard because of what he and his family have been going through.”