Oakland City Hall Credit: Amir Aziz

District 2 Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas will serve another two-year term as president of the Oakland City Council, and District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb will become president pro-tempore (vice president).

Both were elected unanimously and without debate at the council’s first meeting of 2023. Bas also handed out the council’s subject matter committee assignments, which the council approved.

The powers and responsibilities of the council president, president pro-tem, and committee chairs are spelled out in the council’s Rules of Procedure. Bas said at today’s meeting that she’s been working with the City Attorney and City Administrator to make some updates to these rules, which will be discussed at a future meeting. She added that the council plans to return to in-person meetings by March. Like most government agencies, the council moved to virtual meetings when the pandemic began in 2020.

The City Council president’s duties

City Council president is a powerful position. The president chairs the council’s meetings, giving them some discretion over the order in which legislation is heard, the amount of time members of the public are allowed to speak, and other procedures. 

The president gets to appoint other councilmembers to their committee assignments, subject to confirmation by the council. The president also picks the chairs for each subject matter committee. The committees, which range from public safety to life enrichment, do the work of shaping legislation before it reaches the full city council for a vote. The chairs of the committees have lots of influence over the kinds of resolutions and ordinances their committee advances.

For regional boards and commissions that Oakland is a part of, the president gets to pick which councilmembers represent the city.

Perhaps the most powerful job the president has is presenting the city budget to the council every two years. While the mayor and administration draft the budget, the council has the final say and can amend the budget any way they see fit.

The president also usually chairs the Rules and Legislation Committee, which has the power to schedule which other subject matter committee a particular piece of legislation is heard at. This means that the rules committee can fast-track legislation or block it from advancing to the full city council and becoming law.

The council president pro-tempore is essentially the vice president and serves as president whenever the president is absent.

Committee assignments shake-up

Members of the Oakland City Council met today with members of the Oakland Unified School District board during a special joint meeting at which both governing bodies picked their new leadership for 2023 and 2024.

The City Council unanimously approved the committee assignments proposed by Bas without discussion. They are as follows:

Rules and Legislation

Chair: Nikki Fortunato Bas

Members: Dan Kalb, Carroll Fife, Janani Ramachandran

Finance and Management

Chair: Kevin Jenkins

Members: Rebecca Kaplan, Nikki Fortunato Bas, Janani Ramachandran

Public Works

Chair: Noel Gallo

Members: Dan Kalb, Treva Reid, Kevin Jenkins

Community and Economic Development 

Chair: Dan Kalb

Members: Carroll Fife, Noel Gallo, Kevin Jenkins

Life Enrichment

Chair: Carroll Fife

Members: Treva Reid, Noel Gallo, Janani Ramachandran

Public Safety 

Chair: Rebecca Kaplan

Members: Carroll Fife, Treva Reid, Janani Ramachandran

Education Partnership

Chair: Treva Reid

Members: Noel Gallo, Dan Kalb, Rebecca Kaplan

City/Port Liaison

Chair: Rebecca Kaplan

Members: Nikki Fortunato Bas, Carroll Fife, Treva Reid

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.