On Monday afternoon, Oakland held an inauguration ceremony at the Paramount Theatre. The new mayor of Oakland, Sheng Thao, along with Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas (District 2), Janani Ramachandran (District 4), Kevin Jenkins (District 6), City Auditor Courtney Ruby, Oakland Board of Education Jennifer Brouhard (District 2), Nick Resnick (District 4), and Valarie Bachelor (District 6) were sworn in.
Current councilmembers and school board members, as well as two student school board members, also sat on the stage during the ceremony, and as each new or re-elected official was called up, they brought up close family and friends to be with them on stage as they were sworn in.
Oakland’s 51st Mayor, Sheng Thao
California state Attorney General Rob Bonta read the oath and conducted the ceremony for Mayor Sheng Thao. The new mayor’s teen son played cello prior to the swearing in along with a piano accompaniment.
During Mayor Thao’s speech, she covered many topics, from personal to political priorities. She spoke of growing up as one of 10 children raised by her parents, who were Hmong refugees from Laos. As a single mom, she attended Merritt College and later Cal. She is a survivor of domestic violence. In her speech, she said that “I could have given up, but I still had a strong sense of fight in me.” She is the first Hmong American mayor of a major city.
“Today, we begin a new chapter in our great beautiful town,” Thao said at the ceremony. She added that Oakland stands for equity, diversity, and opportunities, “deeply held, shared values: values that make Oakland, Oakland.”
Among the priorities she mentioned was affordable housing and homelessness, renters rights, public safety programs like Operation Ceasefire, green jobs, reproductive and abortion rights, keeping the A’s in Oakland, and Oakland parks. Thao stated she wants to build 30,000 more housing units in Oakland.
Re-elected and New Councilmembers: Council President Nikki Fortunate Bas (District 2), Janani Ramachandran (District 4), Kevin Jenkins (District 6)
Nikki Fortunate Bas was re-elected by a wide margin as the Councilmember for District 2, which covers Chinatown, parts of downtown and Jack London Square, Eastlake, and San Antonio districts. She was also unanimously voted as the returning City Council President by her fellow councilmembers. Dan Kalb (District 1) is President Pro Tempore of the city council.
In her speech, Bas mentioned the “powerful, progressive majority” of Oakland, and highlighted community participation as what makes the city work. She added that one upcoming project in her district is breaking ground on the East 12th parcel, which will be 100 percent affordable housing. Bas is the first Filipina American on the city council.
Janani Ramachandran is a newly elected Councilmember, representing district 4, which includes the Oakland hills and some of the neighborhoods between the flatlands and the hills.
At 30 years-old, Ramachandran is the youngest to be elected on Oakland city council, and first South Asian. She said she will focus on bringing “radical transparency and accountability to Oakland City Hall.”
Kevin Jenkins is the new Councilmember for District 6, which includes East Oakland neighborhoods such as Eastmont, Havenscourt, Maxwell Park, as well as hills neighborhoods like Leona Heights.
Jenkins was read his oath by Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley. In his speech, Jenkins thanks the prior councilmembers of his district, Loren Taylor and Desley Brooks. He also thanks outgoing Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Jenkins was one of two people who mentioned shootings and school safety as something he wanted to address.
Re-elected Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby
This will be Ruby’s fourth term as city auditor. Among recent accomplishments, she mentioned her office publishing reports on the city’s finances and use of public money, and investigating critical issues through a hotline program.
Oakland School Board Members: Valarie Bachelor, Nick Resnick, Jennifer Brouhard
Three new school board members were sworn in: Valarie Bachelor, Nick Resnick, and Jennifer Brouhard.
Brouhard, representing District 2, brought up stopping school closures as a priority. She also mentioned racial equity initiatives such as the George Floyd Resolution, which eliminated Oakland police in Oakland schools. Brouhard is a former teacher.
Nick Resnick, representing District 4, is also a former teacher, noted he is the first LGBTQ person and trans man on the school board.
Valarie Bachelor, representing District 6, also mentioned wanting to push back on school closures. Her partner is a teacher at Fremont High School. Bachelor said that increasing salaries for school staff will help with the understaffing of schools. Bachelor was also one of the only other people, besides Kevin Jenkins, to talk about curbing violence, and in particular, gun violence. She hopes to ask for more resources from the state to help staff schools, including having a nurse, counselor, and restorative justice staff at every school site.
In the backdrop of the ceremony, which no one mentioned, is the fact that a recount for both the mayoral race and district 4 school board seat may take place. In late December, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters noted that there was an error in the way that ranked choice voting (RCV) was counted, and that instead of Resnick winning the seat, Mike Hutchinson may be the winner.
Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, Oakland’s Deputy Mayor
Kimberly Mayfield was selected as the city’s Deputy Mayor. Mayfield grew up in Oakland and is a former Oakland teacher, and is the dean of the school of education at Holy Names University. “This day is about the power of the people, all the people,” Mayfield said in her speech. “The ones who live in curbside communities, the flatlands, slopes, and the hills.”
The ceremony was emceed by Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, which centers and supports women of color in politics.
Kev Choice, a musician and educator in Oakland, spoke at the ceremony and talked about Oakland’s motto, “Love Life.”