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Deanna Santana, Oakland's City Administrator, sits in a meeting in her office at Oakland City Hall in Oakland, Calif. on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

From the moment she took the job nearly three years ago, Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana's days were numbered.

A no-nonsense professional who tried to restore fiscal reality in the East Bay's largest city, Santana worked for a mayor, Jean Quan, who wanted to bury her head in the sand.

While Quan last month emphasized that revenues were expected to surpass projections by more than $18 million this fiscal year, Santana focused on the $28 million projected shortfall at the end of next year, $241 million imbalance the following year and $292 million deficit in fiscal year 2017-18.

While Quan made one-line mention that the city faces unfunded pension and retiree health liabilities, without specifying the magnitude, Santana was quick to peg retirement debt at approximately $1.5 billion. In fact, it exceeds $2 billion.

While Quan and the City Council rewarded politically powerful unions, Santana put out budget forecasts showing Oakland couldn't afford the latest labor agreements.

The mayor remains focused on preserving her political career, even if it means using misleading and false statistics. She puts bunting on the sinking financial ship rather than trying to bail and fix the huge leaks.


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That wasn't Santana's style. She had higher standards. She wanted to right the vessel and put it back on course. "Tremendous challenges are still ahead and require financial planning on the part of the city," she wrote in a December memo.

But Quan never plans. She works day to day, placing politics above hard, long-range policy choices. More than three years into her term and facing re-election this year, Quan still hasn't put forth a proposal for repairing the city's gaping financial hole.

City residents don't feel safe. In a poll last fall, 69 percent of likely voters identified crime as the worst thing about living in Oakland. Calls to the city's 911 system go unanswered. Yet Quan has no plans for restoring the police force to full strength. She just muddles along.

Whether Santana saw the writing on the walls or simply couldn't stomach it anymore, we don't know. She says she didn't want to get embroiled in this year's election so she started looking elsewhere, seeking city manager jobs in Dallas and Phoenix.

She was a finalist for each, but failed to win either post. In the process, she sealed her inevitable fate here. As of this week, she's out, and her deputy, Fred Blackwell, was selected by the mayor to replace her.

As long as Quan remains at the helm, it's doubtful we will see change.