If a good compromise pleases no one, then Oakland seems to have reached the perfect deal on strengthening anti-graffiti laws.

A proposal to step up graffiti violations from infractions to misdemeanors and provide the city with new tools to go after vandals will head to a council vote next week despite being panned by both artists and merchants at a Tuesday hearing.

Mary Jeffrey, who owns a business on San Pablo Avenue called the proposed ordinance "a joke" because "there's no teeth to implement penalties."

Street artists said the law would criminalize youth, and Councilman Larry Reid feared that Oakland didn't have the stomach to crack down on graffiti vandals.

"Why is it that Oakland always has to accept things?" he said. "We just make excuses and accept everything that people want to do in our city."

The proposed law would classify graffiti as a public nuisance and allow the city to seek damages from violators. Businesses that don't clean up graffiti would face escalating fines of up to $500.

There is a push to approve the ordinance Tuesday -- the last scheduled council meeting for the law's sponsor, outgoing Councilwoman Nancy Nadel. But even if the council approves it, the city still will have to figure out how to fund enforcement measures, which likely won't be settled until the council approves a budget next June.

Changing of the guard in Union City


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Carol Dutra-Vernaci was sworn in at a City Council meeting Tuesday night -- exactly five weeks after she was elected Union City's first female mayor.

She replaced Mark Green, the city's mayor since 1993. Dutra-Vernaci, 58, addressed the standing-room-only crowd, praising Green for his 19 years of service.

She ran unopposed. Dutra-Vernaci served three terms on the City Council from 1997-2010 and has headed the city's Economic Development Advisory Team and the Community Emergency Response Team.

Union City Councilman Jim Navarro, who captured his third term, winning nearly 67 percent of the vote while defeating challenger Jose Estrella last month, also was sworn in at the meeting.

Green, who frequently ran council meetings with a wisecracking manner, opened the meeting on familiar terms, making jokes about his shrinking time in office.

"This may be a good time to do a three-hour filibuster," he said, drawing big laughs from the packed crowd, which was buzzing in anticipation well before the meeting.

Dutra-Vernaci, perhaps taking a page from Green, peppered her speech with jokes and showed a feisty side. When she mentioned Cal State East Bay, she said she preferred its previous name, Cal State Hayward, and added: "Let's not have any of this 'East Bay' stuff."

Dutra-Vernaci ended her speech by calling the other council members to join her onstage. Green accompanied them, but only for a second, as he handed the mayor's gavel to Dutra-Vernaci. The crowd applauded the new mayor and council, and Green walked away, exiting stage left.