Gordon Confirmed as Port Commissioner with Dellums’ Help

By Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday October 05, 2007

The administration of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, left for practically politically dead by some local media outlets, rose dramatically from the grave on Tuesday night to win its second major political victory of the year, securing the nearly-unanimous City Council confirmation of its two Port Commission nominees. 

The Dellums’ administration’s first major victory occurred earlier this year when both union and management representatives publicly credited Dellums with negotiating the settlement that ended the Waste Management trash workers lockout. Late last month, as a result of that negotiated settlement, Waste Management officials announced that Oakland residents would receive an automatic credit on upcoming bills for service lost to Oakland neighborhoods during the July lockout. 

Council confirmed West Oakland environmental health activist Margaret Gordon on a 6-1 vote (Councilmember Desley Brooks voting no) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595 Business Manager Victor Uno on a 7-0 vote. Just before the votes, Councilmember Larry Reid had announced his support for both Gordon and Uno, but was in the foyer outside Council chambers when the vote was taken. 

Some had questioned Gordon’s qualifications because her background is in environmental health and not business or management or development or labor, as most Port Commission appointees have been in the past. Gordon will replace labor leader David Kramer on the Commission, while Uno takes the seat formerly occupied by developer .John Protopappas. 

Dellums was not present in Council chambers during or following the vote, but later released a prepared statement that said, “Both Margaret Gordon and Victor Uno embody my sincere interest in addressing the critical and wide-ranging issues facing our city’s port. The overall success of the Port is a key component of the Model City vision, and I commend the council for recognizing the importance of appointing individuals who are capable of understanding both the economic and the environmental impact of the various Port facilities.” 

Gordon herself, while clearly elated by her confirmation, told reporters afterwards that she would have to see how effectively she will be able to communicate her views on the seven-member Commission. 

Gordon and Uno will both take office at the Commission’s next meeting on Oct. 16. 

Uno’s confirmation to the seven-member Port of Oakland Commission was never in doubt, but Dellums pulled the two nominations from the agenda for the last council meeting before the summer break after it appeared Gordon did not have the five votes necessary for confirmation. Only Councilmembers Nancy Nadel (in whose West Oakland district Gordon lives), Jean Quan, and Jane Brunner had announced their support for Gordon. 

A San Francisco Chronicle article on Dellums’ endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton for president, published on the morning of the council commission vote, said that “the endorsement by Dellums came as new polls show that his support may not carry the clout it once did. Little more than a year after his election, Oakland voters have become disenchanted with the mayor’s leadership. The city continues to suffer from a high homicide rate and violence. A David Binder poll of 500 likely voters taken last month showed Dellums has lost considerable confidence of Oakland’s voters regarding his ability to deal with tough issues like crime and unemployment, and more than half of those surveyed would not vote for him again as mayor.” 

Presumably, either Oakland councilmembers did not read the Chronicle article or the poll numbers, or else had alternate sources of information on the strength of the Dellums administration. 

One of those sources was reportedly an intense lobbying effort of councilmembers by the mayor in the weeks between the July postponement and the Oct. 1 vote. Dellums and Gordon met personally with opposing councilmembers to explain the nominee’s qualifications and answer questions, and, in some cases, Gordon herself returned for a second interview. 

In remarks from the dais shortly before the vote, at least two Councilmember said that the interviews had convinced them of Gordon’s qualifications. 

“I didn’t know Ms. Gordon very well before she was nominated,” At-Large Councilmember Henry Chang said. “After I talked with her I was very impressed with her and her knowledge of the port.” 

And Councilmember Pat Kernighan said that she talked with Gordon “a couple of times,” noting that “she brings a great breadth of experience on health and air quality issues. If the port is to grow, it has to meet increasingly stringent air quality regulatory requirements. Ms. Gordon sees the growth of the port as important.” 

In announcing her opposition, Brooks said that “we need to move in a direction that enhances the port as one of the economic engines of this city.” Brooks said that while she did not believe that Gordon’s presence on the Commission would advance that goal, “I told the mayor I hope he will prove me wrong, and I look forward to him proving me wrong.” 

But Kernighan’s, Chang’s, and Brooks’ remarks were anticlimactic, the outcome a foregone conclusion after Council President De La Fuente, the reported leader of the opposition to Gordon on the Council, led off the debate announcing that he had switched, and would vote for her. 

“I’ve spoken to the mayor a couple of times, and he is absolutely committed to this nomination as a way to bring a balance on the commission,” De La Fuente said, to applause from Gordon supporters in the audience. “We have a responsibility to work with the mayor.” In the only reference to his earlier opposition, De La Fuente added that “if we have the courage to change our minds, that’s what we should do.”