New City Leadership Team Takes the Helm

Photo by Godfrey Lee

Photo by Godfrey Lee

By Ken Epstein

Tuesday was a day to celebrate the changing of the guard in Oakland, as Mayor Libby Schaaf, three councilmembers, three school boardmembers and the new city auditor were sworn in.

Mayor Schaaf was sworn in during a quiet ceremony early in the morning, and the other new officials were sworn in during an organizational meeting at 11 a.m., where new officers were also selected.

All the newly elected and re-elected officials were ceremoniously sworn in again later in the afternoon at a festive event at the Paramount Theater at 2025 Broadway.

(L to R): Desley Brooks, Annie Campbell Washington, Abell Guillen. Photo by Adam L. Turner

(L to R): Desley Brooks, Annie Campbell Washington, Abell Guillen. Photo by Adam L. Turner

James Harris, District 7, was elected president of the Board of Education, and Jody London, District 1, was named vice president.

Lynette McElhaney, District 3, was elected president of the City Council. Larry Reid, District 7, was elected president pro tem, and Councilmember-at-large Rebecca Kaplan was elected vice mayor.

In a speech at the Paramount, Mayor Schaaf, emphasized her love for the city and her roots – “Oakland made,” born and bred.

Saying that she, like so many others, is upset by the lack of equality in the public schools and the lack of public safety.

“Transformative change is possible” she said. “If other cities can do it, so can we.”

It’s time for Oakland to get off the list of the 10 most dangerous cities in the country, Mayor Schaaf said, also pledging that the police department would complete federally required reforms “that we promised to finish 10 years ago.”

“It’s time to address quality preschool for all children, so all of our children show up to kindergarten ready to learn,” she said, calling the continuing racial disparities in education “morally outrageous.”

Mayor Schaaf said she would mobilize the city to stop illegal dumping, fix the “raggedy roads” in the neighborhoods and clean up parks and other public spaces.

She also said she would bring new businesses to Oakland and support the city’s existing small businesses, “particularly the ones in our neighborhoods,” providing zero interest loans and encouraging residents to “put your money where your heart is.”

In remarks after he was sworn in, District 2 Councilmember Abel Guillen said,

“We must provide housing for Oakland’s workforce – this is something we can do.”

Annie Campbell Washington, District 4 representative, spoke about her years working as a staffer for the city, where she learned that it was necessary to go to the grassroots to find out about programs and people.

“I learned it’s not about the numbers – it’s about the people,” she said.

“Here is where the rubber meets the road,” she continued. “The decisions we make are incredibly important to the lives of people here (in Oakland).”

District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks, who has been on the council for 12 years, was sworn in for new term.

“Too many of our residents are left out,” she said. “Too many are hungry, homeless or are feeling hopeless. Too many cannot afford to live here.”

Brooks, who was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt, had participated in a silent vigil held by protesters in front of the Paramount at the beginning of the swearing in.

She urged elected officials to pay attention to the protest, which also took place in the theater at the beginning of the swearing in ceremony, when some people unfurled a “End Police Terror” banner from the balcony and for a few minutes sang “Which side are you on?”

“I wore this t-shirt for a reason,” said Brooks “ We’ve got to listen to ideas others than our own. We have to hear voices other than our own. We have to include everybody. We have to come out of our comfort zone.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)