Monday, in a unanimous vote, Councilmember At Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected Oakland City Council President. Kaplan is the first openly LGBT+ Council President in Oakland’s history. The new President opened her statements with 1 Kings 3:9 “Give Thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this Thy great people?” She also thanked Vice Mayor Larry Reid for his leadership and for his support and looks forward to a smooth transition and his continued mentorship.
Said Kaplan, “I am honored to serve the people of Oakland as Council President. I thank my colleagues for their confidence in my leadership and for the opportunity to serve Oakland. We have many challenges. We must acknowledge injustice and prejudice exist and we need leaders to assure we work together to move our city forward. I believe in giving all Councilmembers the opportunity to affect change, and all council members will have an opportunity to chair a committee. I look forward to working together in coalition with community to advance Oakland’s vital needs.”
Priorities for the newly elected Council President include making the Council meetings more effective by changing how “ceremonial” items and scheduling are handled, so people coming to speak on important decisions are not made to wait around for hours before substantive discussion begins, and ensuring respectful interactions, and meaningful input. Strengthening our response to homelessness, including by ensuring implementation of the Council Resolution Kaplan authored, which called for a list of specific actions to expand alternatives to help the homeless, and by working together with County leaders and others to expand access to services for our community, and use of public properties for this vital need. Expand affordable housing, including through tax incentives, public land, and direct funding, and displacement prevention, so that more people aren’t pushed into homelessness. Expanding access to job training and career pathways, including into vitally needed good-paying jobs in the trades, so that Oaklanders get positive and equitable access to these positions. And finally, last year we fought for a change away from the complaint-based dumping removal system – toward a pro-active cleanup system with geographic assignments. So far, this change has been tried in one area successfully and in the coming year we will seek to expand and improve it citywide. We have won increased funding for mattress recycling and will continue to advocate for mattress pickup and additional strategies to prevent and remedy blight and illegal dumping, and work to implement a proposal to include opportunity for the homeless to help clean up our city and expand job opportunity, and to help publicize and make clear that it is not okay to trash Oakland.
This, of course, is not a comprehensive list, as President Kaplan is aware that there are many issues we will be dealing with in 2019 and beyond and she looks forward to getting to work.