Oakland administrator is staying put

Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana says there's no truth to recent rumors that she's leaving the city after less than two years on the job.

"I'm happy here," she said Thursday. "I enjoy working in Oakland. Right now, I don't have any plans of leaving."

Santana, who has shepherded Oakland through the tumult of Occupy and the stepped-up federal oversight of the city's police force, said she has been debunking rumors of her departure for the past few weeks. This week, she met with Council President Larry Reid, who had caught wind of the rumor, and told him she planned to stay.

The rumors didn't link Santana to a specific job. Santana, a former San Jose deputy city manager, said she hasn't applied or interviewed for any positions since taking the reigns in Oakland last year. She wouldn't say if she's been approached about potential openings.

Council votes to get tough on graffiti, go easy on taxi companies

In the last meeting of 2012, Oakland's outgoing City Council voted to halve vehicle license fees for taxi companies and toughen laws on graffiti vandals.

At the behest of taxi companies, the council approved lowering vehicle fees from $1,019 to $519. The reduction followed a major increase in the fee last year that was approved to cover the city's expenses in overseeing the taxi program.

Advocates for lowering the fee said it would reduce incentives to operate taxis illegally and help the industry deal with declining revenue. Opponents said it was a giveaway to politically active industry barons that wouldn't help drivers, who pay weekly fees of up to $575 to use the taxis.

Voting to reduce fees were council members Larry Reid, Ignacio De La Fuente, Desley Brooks, Jane Brunner and Rebecca Kaplan. Council members Pat Kernighan, Nancy Nadel and Libby Schaaf voted against it.

The council overwhelmingly supported a proposal to crack down on graffiti vandals. The ordinance would make graffiti vandalism a misdemeanor rather than an infraction. It would also establish a city cleanup fund for businesses that are frequently vandalized.

Both votes will require a "second reading" vote at the next council meeting, when three new members take office.

Back pain sidelines Hayward councilman

Hayward City Councilman Al Mendall has missed the past two council meetings because of back problems.

"I had back surgery five or six years ago, and it's a chronic problem. I had a flare-up recently," he said.

The councilman has kept in touch with city staff members and the other members of the council during his absence. "But attending meetings has not been practical because I am under doctors' orders not to stand or sit for prolonged periods," he said.

Mendall is taking advantage of the holiday break to recover and said he expects to be at the next meeting in January.

Two Newark schools may add police officer

The City Council soon will consider whether to employ an armed Newark police officer who will patrol two campuses on a part-time basis.

The five-member council is scheduled to vote Jan. 10 on the plan, which calls for a "school liaison officer" to work four hours per day, for a total of 16 hours per week, at two campuses: Newark Junior High and MacGregor Continuation School.

Officials from the city and the school district have been discussing the issue for months, said Dave Marken, Newark's superintendent of schools. It has not been planned as a response to the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., he said.

An armed school resource officer currently provides law enforcement services five days a week at Newark Memorial High. In 2010, budget cuts forced the district to cease employing an officer at Newark Junior High.

No other schools in the district are patrolled by school resource officers, also members of the city police force, Marken said.