Supes slated to vote on Muni un-Reform measure today

Today, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on whether to place a charter amendment on the November ballot dramatically changing how the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni, is governed.  We’re urging our members to contact their supervisors and urge them to vote against placing this measure on the ballot.

You can read the proposed text here.

This well-intentioned proposal moves Muni in the wrong direction in several important respects:

  1.  It gives the Board of Supervisors near-total control over the SFMTA.  The repeated insistence by some supervisors that this measure isn’t a power grab doesn’t change the facts: the Board of Supervisors would have simple-majority vote approval of the agency’s budget, simple-majority vote approval over any major service changes, direct appointment power over a majority of the SFMTA Board, and simple-majority vote approval over the remaining members.  This, combined with existing law by which the Board of Supervisors serves as the County Transportation Authority and must approve all large contracts into which SFMTA enters, gives the Board of Supervisors de facto control over any aspect of the agency they choose.  Under the existing City Charter, as amended by Proposition E and Proposition A, the Board of Supervisors has ample power to hold the agency accountable and to reject the appointment of directors it considers insufficiently independent.
  2. It returns us to the formula for unplanned, random service cuts that led to the Muni Meltdown of the 1990’s.  Giving the Board of Supervisors the ability to reject service cuts, but not obligating the Board to provide funding to continue such service, was a central cause of the Muni Meltdown.  The Board refused to cut service, but didn’t fund the level of scheduled service, so service was cut randomly, every morning, as a greater and greater fraction of service simply didn’t go out.  This charter amendment returns us to the exact same situation.  The only things worse than planned service cuts are unplanned service cuts; this charter amendment is a formula for exactly that.
  3. The “Inspector General” office is useless.  The last thing SFMTA needs is more internal burueaucracy devoted to something other than direct service delivery.  The Inspector General would perform functions which can now be performed by the City Controller, but would be less independent, reporting to the very board whose agency he or she would review.  SFMTA already does extensive measurements of performance, which are checked by an outside firm every two years.  Both the SFMTA and its stakeholders are aware of where the agency is performing well and poorly; there’s no need for a new bureaucracy to tell us yet again what we already know.  We need more operators, mechanics, and inspectors out on the street, not more bureaucrats in an office building.
  4. Nothing about the new funding guarantees it will go into service.  The funding component of the proposed amendment has been cut deeply since it was first introduced, so the version currently under consideration is even less likely to get the SFMTA closer to the Transit Effectiveness Project vision than was the previous version.  More importantly, nothing about the charter amendment guarantees this money will go into supporting new or existing service, or that it won’t be raided by other City departments the way the agency’s Propositon A money was.  The governance changes in the amendment do nothing to reform the unwillingness of other city departments to account for and justify the charges for services to SFMTA.

The proposed charter amendment represents a major step backward in the long fight for Muni reform and better Muni service.  This is the wrong solution at the wrong time.  We hope you’ll contact the supervisors, particularly the supervisor for your district, today and urge them to vote against placing it on the ballot.  Months spent squabbling over SFMTA governance, and on campaigns for and against a charter amendment highly unlikely to pass, are a waste of time and energy which could be used solving problems, not reshuffling deck chairs.

The one useful part of the proposal—ending the setting of operator pay by an arbitrary formula outside the agency’s control—is already on the ballot as the Elsbernd Amendment.

The public can comment on this charter amendment at City Hall, in Room 263, today at 10:00 a.m., at the Rules Committee, where it will be the first item on the agenda.  Below is a list of phone numbers at which you can call supervisors’ offices to urge them to shelve this wrongheaded proposal.

  • District 1 – Supervisor Eric Mar – 415-554-7410
  • District 2 – Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier – 415-554-7752
  • District 3 – Board President David Chiu – 415-554-7450
  • District 4 – Supervisor Carmen Chu – 415-554-7460
  • District 5 – Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi – 415-554-7630
  • District 6 – Supervisor Chris Daly – 415-554-7970
  • District 7 – Supervisor Sean Elsbernd – 415-554-6516
  • District 8 – Supervisor Bevan Dufty – 415-554-6968
  • District 9 – Supervisor David Campos – 415-554-5144
  • District 10 – Supervisor Sophie Maxwell – 415-554-7670
  • District 11 – Supervisor John Avalos – 415-554-6975