News & Views
The project to build a new stadium for the Oakland Raiders is moving forward, without Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks.
Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan announced on Wednesday that, as a new member of the board that controls the Oakland Coliseum complex, she voted to allocate $500,000 for two studies of the area that will precede the construction of "Coliseum City."
Officials in Oakland are hoping the development becomes an equivalent to Los Angeles' downtown sports and entertainment hub, LA Live.
But the vote on Jan. 25 did not include Brooks: On Jan. 22, amidst the tumultuous public hearing over the hiring of William Bratton as a police consultant, the longtime councilwoman was formally kicked off the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority. Council President Patricia Kernighan nominated Kaplan to replace her.
Brooks, who is known for her combative nature on the Council, as well as for her public disputes with Kernighan at meetings last year, told the Bay Area News Group that Kaplan was nominated as a reward for supporting the new Council president. Brooks also claimed that Councilman Noel Gallo was put on the Public Safety Committee for the same reason.
The ousted councilmember didn't hold back her criticisms at a meeting where more than 200 people were still waiting to speak. She called out Kernighan for not informing her that she wouldn't be on the JPA board or the Council's Rules and Legislation Committee.
"Professional courtesy would dictate that you at least send an email, make a phone call, send a smoke signal, something, to give one notice that it wasn't going to take place," Brooks said. "For an entity that is over a $500 million entity, the decision to place someone shouldn't just be on the basis of ... whatever the basis was. I won't speculate on what it was.
"We can ill afford to make decisions in this city based on whether we like a person or not."
Brooks continued, saying that putting a pro-sports franchise councilmember on the JPA board would hurt the residents of Oakland by focusing the city's funds on development rather than city services.
"To send someone to that board that is not going to be about the business aspect of that deal, does you," she said, looking at the audience, "a tremendous disservice."
In early January, BANG also reported that Kernighan told them that in making her appointments, "my job is to find the person who will best serve the city in a particular role. That is why I appointed Councilmember Kaplan to the (authority)."
Public speakers at the Jan. 22 meeting disagreed that Kaplan was the best person for the job. Many agreed with Brooks that she was being punished for speaking out against her fellow councilmembers.
Rev. Harold Mayberry was one of more than 30 speakers to stand up for Brooks at the meeting.
"When are you going to move beyond deals and promises between yourselves and practices which only create further division on this Council and does not serve the best interest of the people of this community?" Mayberry asked. "When does it cease to be about who on this Council does not get along with who?"
"Let us move from the politics of personal vengeance and to the politics of public service," an elderly woman who spoke before the Council said. "We've got too many problems in Oakland. When you start down this road, all you can do is spend your time on vengeance."
Kaplan, meanwhile, who was in the awkward situation of having her placement opposed by many at the meeting as well as being caught between the barbs thrown by Kernighan and Brooks, took the high road.
"I have not asked that anybody be removed from this position and I hold no ill intention toward you, Councilmember Brooks," Kaplan said. She continued by saying what she envisioned for the Coliseum complex.
"We have got hundreds of acres there that have not been developed. And the reason we lose money there is not primarily because of the teams, its because we have not put economic development there. And when we study cities that have turned their sports venues into genuine economic engines, like was done with LA Live in Los Angeles … they began to make money for the city when the ancillary development was brought in."
The Coliseum City plan that Kaplan supports will fill the 1,000 acre plot with new retail, housing, hotel and entertainment facilities as well as updating the arena itself.