Fighting potential loss of committee chair, Desley Brooks unloads on her Oakland City Council colleagues

Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks
eviscerated her council colleagues during
Tuesday night’s meeting.

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL
Even when Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks knocks down an iconic former Black Panther and potentially costs taxpayers $4.3 million in damages, she still won’t back down.

Brooks unleashed a vicious barrage of abuse against five Oakland councilmembers Tuesday night as a proposal that appeared intended to strip her as chairperson of the council’s Public Safety Committee was being debated.

The council’s move is seen as a response to an Alameda County Superior Court jury in December awarding county staffer and former Black Panther Elaine Brown millions in damages following a 2015 incident at an Oakland restaurant. The jury found that Brooks pushed Brown with two-fists to the chest. Brown fell over backwards and sustained significant injuries. The incident was also labelled as elder abuse by the jury.

Under the current policy, the council president is allowed to reward committee chairpersonships every two years, along with naming its roster of councilmembers. The decision is pending council approval. But an item Tuesday night brought forth by Council President Larry Reid, Coucilmembers Annie Campbell Washington and Abel Guillen hoped to give discretion to the council president to make indiscriminate changes at anytime.

That proposal failed to get the requisite five votes, but a motion by Councilmember Dan Kalb to add for any committee change to be agendized beforehand and voted on by the full council was ultimately successful.

Brooks’ stemwinding remarks, meanwhile, were wild, contemptuous screeds, at the same, poised and measured. The diatribe was reminiscent of a strategy Brooks used in July 2013 to avoid censure following allegations of political interference.

She said there is more to the story involving the Brown incident and urged the city attorney to appeal the jury’s decision. Not doing so, said Brooks, would be negligent on the city’s part and amount to a gift of public funds to Brown. Later, she added, “Who amongst us is perfect?”

But as Brooks continued, she began tearing through her perceived council opponents. One by one, she lambasted Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Reid for previously reported instances of alleged wrongdoing. Other times, Brooks made far more spurious claims against Kalb, Campbell Washington, and Guillen. Only Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Noel Gallo remained unscathed by Brooks’ verbal assault.

Brooks then added that the media was also targeting her. Other times she suggested racism was behind the backroom push to remove her from various committees. Later she used a populist tone, telling the council chamber’s audience, “If they silence me there will be nobody who talks regular on behalf of the people.”

But Brooks also urged the council to “step above the politics,” while acknowledging what her colleagues would not, regarding the proposal Tuesday. “It really is all about me,” said Brooks. “This rule is not well thought out no matter what you think about me.”

Kaplan agreed, warning the council the rule change could have dire effects and could be abused by future council presidents. “I’m worried that we’re making this about one person,” said Kaplan. She envisioned the rule change could foster vote trading and retaliation if a councilmember refuses to side with the council president’s opinion.

The city now awaits whether Reid will indeed formally move to replace Brooks as chair of the public safety committee, one of the plum assignments on the council, pending the council’s approval.

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