Danny Wan is hardly a political vet, but he's headed that way, having risen from the EBMUD board to the state's Regional Water Quality Control Board to the Oakland City Council all before his fortieth birthday. A public finance attorney appointed in the fall of 2000 to fill John Russo's seat, Wan quickly scored a powerful role as chair of the city's Finance Committee. In this capacity, he shows a mastery of fiscal details that tend to befuddle not only the public, but also his fellow politicians. While leading the formulation of the city's two-year budget, Wan devised a zero-net-increase hiring policy that will help eliminate "ghost" positions that are funded but never filled, and help keep spending under control as the recession threatens city priorities. To the benefit of both the public and decision makers, Wan aims to make the budget more transparent by requiring the city manager's office to disclose far more details on spending for specific city programs. Last year, Wan, who happens to be Oakland's first openly gay council member, also crafted an ordinance that compels city contractors to offer equal benefits to domestic partners -- an overdue move. In general, while Council appointees tend to be rubber stamps for those who put them in power, Wan has proven himself an effective leader and an independent thinker, popular in his district. Perhaps the best evidence: In March, when Wan's seat was up for grabs, nobody bothered to challenge him.
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