RM to Supervisors: Don’t advance Campos amendment

This past Friday, the Rules Committee of the Board of Supervisors met to consider a proposed charter amendment that would, among other things, split the appointees to the MTA Board between the Mayor and Board (as has been done for several commissions including Planning and Police). Rescue Muni members urged a no vote at the hearing; Chair Andrew Sullivan submitted the following comment.

To: Rules Committee
Re: Campos Amendment regarding SFMTA Board

This amendment really misses the mark on the critical issues facing the MTA. The MTA is facing severe cuts in funding and serious problems regarding work rules, but the way to address this is not to give the Supervisors additional power over the MTA.

The voters have voted twice to establish, and maintain, this balance of power between the Mayor and Supervisors that was set in 1999 Prop E. This has, in our opinion, served the MTA well over the years, in particular giving the MTA some distance from political interference allowing it to take many transit-first policy positions, including raising parking fees and fines and establishing more transit-only lanes. Changing the balance would be bad for transit service to the extent that it increases interference by this board or some future board – consider the recent issues concerning the proposed Fort Mason streetcar and the previous debates about Geary stop consolidation in the Tenderloin.

If this were to be approved, this would put the Board of Supervisors fully in control of the SFMTA – as was the case prior to 1999. We submit that the quality of service was far worse at that time, not least because there was a severe lack of clarity about who was in charge, and the detailed, often line by line edits to the budget that led to (for example) major cuts being made in maintenance to maintain the fiction of “no service cuts.” We fear that, if not this Board, future supervisors will not be able to resist the temptation to cut everything but service hours in order to pretend that service has not been cut.

We do agree that it makes sense to reform work rules, but the way to do that is to advance the Elsbernd “Fix Muni Now” amendment before the public now. Likewise, we do agree that additional funding is appropriate for MTA, but the way to do this is via new revenue sources (e.g. parking tax) rather than reallocating already programmed general fund money for a short term revenue boost, itself likely to cause more problems with the work orders that are now causing SFMTA budget shortfalls.

Remember that this is not about THIS board or THIS mayor. It’s about the right policy choices and the structure most likely to lead to them – transit priority, safety and service reliability. We think this amendment is a big step back in that regard. So we urge this committee (and by extension the Board) NOT to move this measure forward.

Thank you,
Andrew Sullivan
Chair, Rescue Muni