OAKLAND -- Jakada Imani was sworn in as the newest member of the Oakland Port Board of Commissioners Tuesday night, joining a seven-person governing body in charge of the city's largest economic engine.
Imani, executive director of the Ella Baker Center, was appointed by Mayor Jean Quan to replace outgoing Commissioner Margaret Gordon, a West Oakland advocate popular with residents for her advocacy on health and economic port issues that especially affect residents of that neighborhood. Quan chose Imani over reappointing Gordon, sparking controversy and charges that Quan was splitting the local progressive community by making it choose between two popular leaders.
Imani's appointment was supported by councilmembers Jane Brunner (North Oakland), Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale), Rebecca Kaplan (At-Large), Pat Kernighan (Grand Lake-Chinatown) and Libby Schaaf (Laurel-Montclair). It was opposed by Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary), Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) and Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland).
The vote spurred a standing ovation and loud applause from about 100 Imani supporters at the meeting.
Though the decision angered many Gordon supporters, Gordon and Imani hugged each other outside the council chambers after the vote, and Imani vowed to "announce a stronger partnership with Margaret Gordon and myself in the next couple days."
Asked if he would support Gordon returning to the board, Imani said he "would even support her running for president of the United States. Anybody who has a problem with Margaret has a problem with me."
Imani said his first priority will be developing an understanding of the port's financial operations, followed by tackling labor relations.
Port redevelopment, a project long in the works, "is going to be the biggest development in Oakland in my life," Imani said. "It's going to pull us out of poverty."
The council voted to confirm Imani's appointment before taking public comment, infuriating many Gordon supporters who had hoped to speak beforehand and raising some questions whether the vote was legal.
The Port Board of Commissioners will meet Thursday and some community members vowed to challenge Imani's ratified position at the meeting.
Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.