Time to Retire Ignacio De La Fuente from Oakland City Council

(Full Disclosure:  I am a supporter of Rebecca Kaplan for City Council.  But this is one of the reasons why.)


Why is long-time Oakland City Council member Ignacio De La Fuente running for the at-large city council seat?

Mr. De La Fuente has served on the City Council representing District 5 for the past 20 years.  During his long tenure, he has amassed much power and influence.  For example, he was elected the council’s first president by his fellow council-members after Oakland passed the so-called strong mayor measure in 1998, which removed the mayor from the city council.  He remained city council president until recently, when the torch passed to Council-member Larry Reid.

Why run for the at-large seat?  At first, he thought of retiring.

Mr. De La Fuente suffered defeats during both of his runs for Oakland mayor:  the first to Jerry Brown and the second to Ron Dellums.  Nonetheless, he has continued to wield considerable influence on the council and within Oakland city politics.  Though, having been passed over twice by high profile candidates for mayor, and having been on the council for 20 years, I was not surprised when he initially hinted that he would not seek reelection this year for his District 5 seat.  But I was blown away by his sudden decision last summer to run for the at-large seat.  The at-large seat has an incumbent, Rebecca Kaplan, who is running for reelection.

So why on earth would Mr. De La Fuente run against a popular incumbent when he could have just run for reelection and be assured victory?

Many, including Ms. Kaplan, speculated that he wanted to better position himself to run against Mayor Jean Quan in 2014.  Perhaps running for mayor from the at-large seat is better than running from a district seat?  Hmm, it didn’t seem to work for Ms. Kaplan, who herself ran for mayor in 2010 and lost to Ms. Quan.

So again, I ask, why?  Why run for the at-large seat?

Mr. De La Fuente answered my question the other day with one of the most hackish political mailers I’ve ever received.  It is an 11″ x 17″ diatribe against Rebecca Kaplan full of unsubstantiated claims, which he follows with the words It’s true in bold print, as if that alone provides proof for his accusations.  Many of the claims involve Ms. Kaplan’s supposed inaction while Oakland’s crime rate continues to soar.  What he doesn’t mention is that he himself voted to layoff 60 Oakland police officers, which helped to reduce the size of the force to under 700.  Ms. Kaplan did not.  Oakland is a big place.  It cannot be effectively policed with so few officers.

Mr. De La Fuente voted for the layoffs because the police union would not agree to contribute to their retirement fund as other city employees did.  I agree that the police should contribute to their retirement fund, but I don’t think the whole city should suffer with insufficient policing because the police union refused to do things Mr. De La Fuente’s way.

So why is Ignacio De La Fuente running against Rebecca Kaplan?  Because he’s a petty man after petty revenge against those who oppose him.  He wants to stack the city council with folks that he can convince to follow his policies, and stonewall anything the Mayor Quan proposes.  Then, with Mayor Quan badly weakened, he could come in as a savior candidate in 2014 and win.  If this stratagem sounds familiar, it should.  Think Boehner and McConnell.  DC-style grid lock is just want Oakland needs — not.

If this is the best that Mr. De La Fuente can do, then he needs to stop while he’s behind.  (And fortunately, a poll published by the Oakland Tribune Saturday, October 20, 2012, showed him trailing Ms. Kaplan.)  He needs to stick to his original plan and retire from the Oakland City Council.  If he doesn’t have the good sense to do that himself, then he needs the voters to help him out.

© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.

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