Santana Appears to be a Smart Choice



The Oakland City Council appears to have made a smart decision this week in unanimously approving Mayor Jean Quan’s choice for city administrator — San Jose Deputy City Manager Deanna Santana. An Oaklander at heart, Santana has an impressive resume, with a strong background in public safety issues and the regulation of medical cannabis — two areas of prime importance in Oakland. She also has proved in her career that she isn’t afraid to take on sacred cows.

  • Santana
When she worked as analyst in the Oakland Police Department in the late 1990s, she was among the first in the city to publicly question Oakland’s monopoly towing contract with the politically influential A&B Auto Company. A&B Auto, now called B&B Auto, has been one of the largest campaign contributors in Oakland politics over the years, and the city council helped its owner, Bill Taylor, build a towing empire by repeatedly extending his exclusive contract without putting it out to bid. In a report to the then-Oakland City Council, Santana noted that the city’s deal with A&B had resulted in Oakland collecting less money from its towing operations than other cities.

Quan’s selection of Santana also is connected to the mayor’s decision to hire former Oakland Fire Chief P. Lamont Ewell as the city’s interim city administrator earlier this year. Santana had not applied for the Oakland job during the initial application process because she said she was busy at the time with pressing issues in San Jose. But then after Quan hired Ewell as the interim — after the mayor’s first choice for the job backed out — Ewell encouraged Santana to apply for the Oakland city administrator’s position. Ewell had been one of Santana’s early mentors when she worked in Oakland city government. “Lamont and I talked about the position during coffee one morning and he encouraged me to consider the job,” Santana said.

Quan said that Ewell’s influence “helped” result in Santana coming to Oakland.

So what were Santana’s pressing issues earlier this year in San Jose? One was interviewing applicants to be San Jose’s new police chief. As such, Santana interviewed Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts, who applied for the job last fall when Ron Dellums was still mayor of Oakland. The Tribune reported that Batts made a great impression during the San Jose interview process. That could bode well for Oakland since Batts will be reporting directly to Santana when she officially starts on August 1.