The Oakland City Council is inching closer to a budget comprise as three council members amended a proposal to bridge several differences with a plan offered by council President Pat Kernighan.

Councilmembers Desley Brooks, Larry Reid and Noel Gallo had proposed emphasizing blight abatement over adding civilian jobs in the Police Department and continuing a contract with the California Highway Patrol to help police patrol Oakland streets. Their latest proposal, released Friday, includes a quarter of the funding required to keep the CHP in Oakland for two years. It also would fund five additional police dispatchers sought by Mayor Jean Quan and six crime lab examiners.

Kernighan's proposal recommended adding the police dispatchers as well as 10 additional civilian jobs in the Police Department.

The council, which must pass a budget by June 30, will meet Thursday to try to finalize a deal. A third budget compromise plan is being worked on by Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Dan Kalb.

The latest plan by Brooks, Reid and Gallo scales back proposed increases for additional illegal dumping and graffiti abatement. It also rejects the mayor's call for more administrative jobs, including an economic development specialist. The council members still are calling for $3 million to be set aside for raises for civilian employees whose contracts expire at the end of the month.

Oakland council reduces fees on taxi companies

Council members will likely have about $90,000 less to spend when they try to broker a budget deal next week after voting to reduce fees for taxi cab operators. The council on Tuesday voted 5-2 to reduce taxi medallion fees from $1,119 to $719. Councilwomen Libby Schaaf and Pat Kernighan opposed the fee reduction and Councilman Dan Kalb abstained.

The decisive fifth vote was cast by Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who passed on her initial turn to vote, and then backed the fee reduction after the other council members had cast their votes.

The council must pass the measure a second time before it goes into effect.

City staffers opposed lowering the fee, saying it served to subsidize a private business without benefiting drivers or customers. The $1,119 fee was set to fully cover the cost of regulating Oakland's politically powerful taxi industry.

The council majority, noting that the city had recently raised fees from $25 to $1,119, said a reduction was in order because the city had failed to effectively target unlicensed taxi cab operators.

San Leandro begins workplace study near Kaiser site

City council members Monday voted to spend $90,000 for a consultant to study and recommend ways to spur economic growth near the site of the new Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, set to open next year.

San Francisco-based Freedman Tung + Sasaki was tapped to complete a "Next Generation Workplace District Study" this summer with a focus on the industrial area surrounding Kaiser, located off Marina Boulevard west of Interstate 880, and along a segment of the public-private Lit San Leandro high-speed Internet loop. The study will seek ways to bring desirable restaurants and retail offerings to the old industrial area, making it more attractive to Kaiser's patients and 2,500 employees, as well as current and potential businesses.

City Manager Chris Zapata said the study area is "One of the last large urban development sites in the San Francisco Bay Area" and presents an "opportunity that needs to be seized."

The firm will present its findings to the community in September and is expected to present development scenarios and proposals for partnerships, private investments, changes in zoning code, and a list of businesses that might be interested in coming to the area. The firm will also discuss with Kaiser how it plans to use a retail parcel it purchased that remains undeveloped near the medical facility.

Vice Mayor Jim Prola said he hopes to see a Trader Joe's and a hotel move into the area.

The hiring of the Freedman Tung + Sasaki firm comes after the city earlier this year hired a chief innovation officer and new economic development staff.

Hayward school trustee has a few words for the mayor

Hayward Unified School District Trustee Annette Walker called out Mayor Michael Sweeney at Wednesday's school board meeting over his negative remarks about the district.

She prefaced her remarks by thanking the mayor and city for making education a key component of the city's general plan, which is being updated. She then turned her attention to the mayor's frequent criticism of the school district and its low test scores.

"I just want to say personally and directly to the mayor that collaboration, cooperation and unification is what we need rather than more negative perception of who we are as a community and schools," she said. "So the first place for us to begin is how we use the language in talking about and referencing our community and schools."

She went on to say that negative remarks are a direct reflection on the children.

"At the end of the day, it's about the students. They're listening to what we're saying as adults about our own schools." Walker said. "Let's keep that in mind, Mr. Mayor."

Staff said the firm, expected to spend more than 600 hours on the study, brings expertise and time not available in-house.