Councilmember Desley Brooks (at right) and Council President Ignacio De La Fuentehold hands during the invocation Monday at Dellums’ inauguration.
Councilmember Desley Brooks (at right) and Council President Ignacio De La Fuente hold hands during the invocation Monday at Dellums' inauguration. The two council members had just clashed bitterly over De La Fuente's re-election as council president.

At the Oakland council's first meeting of the year, the meeting was marked by controversy over who would be council president. Watch video of the discussion. (Laura A. Oda - Staff)

OAKLAND — Ignacio De La Fuente hung on to the presidency of the Oakland City Council on Monday, after beating back a surprising challenge from erstwhile ally Larry Reid and weathering a hostile assault by some audience members.

With the majestic Paramount Theatre packed to the rafters with Oaklanders eager to see Mayor Ron Dellums publicly sworn in, the raucous audience booed loudly when De La Fuente was nominated and more than a dozen people urged the council to choose someone else for president.

Loud cheers erupted when Councilmember Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary) nominated Reid. However, only Brooks and Councilmember Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) cast their votes for Reid, who represents the Elmhurst-East Oakland district.

Nadel announced last month she would seek the council presidency but was not nominated by any of her colleagues.

De La Fuente, whom Dellums defeated in the hard-fought June election, was then re-elected with a 6-2 vote, with Brooks and Reid in opposition.

"Definitely no," Reid said when the city clerk called on him for his vote.

With the announcement that De La Fuente had won another two-year term after eight years at the head of the council dais, the crowd became even more unruly and shouted down Councilmember Patricia Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown), who was trying to explain her vote.

It wasn't until Dellums — who had not yet taken the oath of office or delivered his inaugural address — stepped to the podium and asked that the program go forward in a civil manner thatthe crowd quieted down.

After the uproar, De La Fuente did not deliver an address called for in the program.

Afterward, Dellums said he was confident he could work with De La Fuente, who represents the Glenview-Fruitvale district. Dellums said he had not lobbied on Reid's behalf, adding that he believes as chief executive he should not interfere with the internal workings of the council.

Despite the fireworks over what has been for the last eight years a routine appointment, Dellums said he plans to set a tone of civility and respect in order to communicate to Oakland's young people that differences can be resolved through discussion rather than violence.

"Oakland deserves more than shouting and name calling," Dellums said. "Our problems are much too severe."

De La Fuente called the audience's actions disrespectful to the new mayor, and said he felt racially attacked by the cat-calls and curses. Had he won the mayoral election, De La Fuente would have been Oakland's first Latino mayor.

After thanking Nadel and Brooks for their support, Reid warned his colleagues that he would take a new approach as a member of the council.

"You'll see a very different Larry Reid," he said.

Last month, Reid said he would support De La Fuente, while adding that he thought it was time for new blood. Reid said he changed his mind over the holidays after receiving several calls urging him to seek the position.

"Eight years is more than enough," Reid said after the inauguration.

Reid, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said De La Fuente offered to name him chairman of the Community and Economic Development Committee and the vice mayor in return for his support.

However, De La Fuente said Reid demanded the chairmanship and position as vice mayor in return for his vote.

Reid, who was De La Fuente's most prominent African-American supporter during the mayoral election, said he had hoped De La Fuente would return the favor and support his bid for the presidency.

"I guess friendship with him is a one-way street," Reid said.

Former Mayor Jerry Brown relied on De La Fuente to pull the votes needed to push his proposals through the council. Reid said Dellums will be able to gather five votes without De La Fuente's help.

De La Fuente said he was disappointed by the discord, but is focused on the larger issues facing Oakland.

The council tapped Councilmember Henry Chang Jr. (At-Large) as vice mayor after Reid unsuccessfully nominated Brooks, the most senior council member who has not yet held the ceremonial position. 

Brooks voted no on Chang's nomination, while Nadel and Reid abstained.

"The deals have been cut, the die has been cast," Brooks said. "I don't need a title to be effective."

Councilmember Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel) will serve as president pro tem.

Also Monday, Kernighan, Brooks and Quan were sworn in for new four-year terms. While Quan was re-elected without opposition, Brooks handily defeated two challengers, and Kernighan won a November runoff.

City Auditor Courtney Ruby also took the oath of office, pledged to reform the scandal-plagued office and to figure out what is — and what is not — working.

New Oakland school board member Christopher Dobbins took office, and the school board re-elected David Kakishiba as president. Alice Spearman was selected as vice president.

Kakishiba and board member Gary Yee were re-elected in June.