>> “Oakland’s challenges are all too familiar, but they are nevertheless, critical for us to solve if we are to realize the city’s great promise”
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Pat Kernighan is the new president of the Oakland City Council. The long-time councilwoman was unanimously selected by the council late Monday morning to replace Councilmember Larry Reid, whose two years leading the council were some of the most fractious in the city’s recent memory.

Pat Kernighan

The council, however, chose Reid as vice mayor, replacing the out-going Nancy Nadel, appointed Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan as president pro tem and swore-in three new members, Dan Kalb, Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Noel Gallo. The trio replaces Nadel, Jane Brunner and Ignacio De La Fuente, who was the only exiting member to attend Monday’s ceremony.

In his farewell comments, De La Fuente gave a glimpse of what may in store come the mayoral race in 2014 against Mayor Jean Quan. Never the best of friends, De La Fuente, who has more than hinted at opposing Quan, addressed her at Monday’s meeting, saying, “You and I have agreed and disagreed and we will continue to do that, but I respect the fact you work very, very hard.”

Although, the Oakland City Council have become a chamber of catfights and numerous public dress downs by residents, the day belonged to positive feelings and reflection on God, family and how to restore the faith of citizens in their city government. How long this feeling of comity and respect lasts, however, is anyone’s guess for a council that mimics the violent crime plaguing the city more than the cultural renaissance quickly blooming around it.

Although a few public speakers urged the council to give the council presidency to its longest-tenured member, which is Councilmember Desley Brooks, Kernighan’s nomination was offered by Kaplan. “I sincerely hope it is going to be a little easier this year, but as we all know there are many challenges facing us,” said Kernighan, “but I do think we have turned the corner financially, and, in many ways, things look promising for Oakland.”

The content and tenor of the three inauguration speeches were not unlike the campaign rhetoric that almost exclusively focused on public safety. Kalb, who represents District 1, said all aspects of public safety need to improve and not just more foot soldiers on the ground. “As new money comes into the city’s budget and new resources become available, we need to make sure those resources are targeted toward crime prevention and neighborhood safety.” He also added it may not always translate into more officers on the streets, but also other important areas of law enforcement. “If somebody puts before me a proposed two-year budget and it doesn’t increase the investigative capacity of the OPD, I’m not going to vote for it,” he said.

Lynette Gibson, McElhaney, the new District 3 representative from West Oakland gave a rousing address hoping to uplift the city, while asking it to expect better for itself. “I believe we must aspire to great things in this city,” she said. “Sometimes we have become accustomed to things being poor—poorly-run and poorly-managed—of being poor people, both in terms of our material wealth, but also in our spirits.”

Gallo, representing District 5 in the areas surrounding Fruitvale, reiterated his support for youth curfews and a “stop-and-frisk” program. Gallo also pledged to give OPD Chief Howard Jordan the tools to lower the city’s crime rate. “My residents and the people who voted for me, said, ‘Noel, whatever you do, stay focused on safety. Anything and everything in this city has to do with safety’,” he said.

In addition to the council’s infusion of new blood, Reid and City Attorney Barbara Parker were also sworn-in during Monday’s festivities. Parker, who became the first African America woman elected to city-wide office in Oakland history, gave a heartwarming speech thanking her parents for instilling faith in civil rights and even calling out her sorority sisters with a jubilant cry. “Oakland’s challenges are all too familiar, but they are nevertheless, critical for us to solve if we are to realize the city’s great promise,” said Parker, who was appointed to the city attorney office in 2011 following John Russo’s departure to Alameda.

The new council will meet Wednesday morning during a special meeting to assign committees and begin the new legislative year next Tuesday, Jan. 15.