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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Rescue Muni from the Board of Supervisors

Back in 1999, then Supervisor Gavin Newsom took to the ballot a measure by the smart transit group Rescue Muni (which was also actively supporting Tom Ammiano for Mayor). Labeled Prop. E, this measure thoroughly reformed and de-politicized transit governance in San Francisco. Newsom's leadership helped lead Prop. E to victory, garnering over 60% of the vote.

Back then, stickers on bus stops across the City quoted Mayor Willie Brown as saying, "I'll ride Muni, just not today -- I haven't got an hour to spare." Now, Willie Brown rides Muni daily.

Since removing politics from the equation, every quantified measure of Muni has shown a marked improvement. I only say this for the sake of the people reading from outside of the City because San Franciscans know that Muni has turned the corner. And General Manager Michael Burns has the support of the people for leading Muni through this dramatic improvement process.

Politics are #1 in our Transit First city

Prop. E was specifically written to keep political opportunists at the Board of Supervisors from hurting riders with their games. The voters thought this made sense -- hence the huge victory at the polls. Not only was this the popular position, recent history has shown it was the correct decision.

So why are Gerardo Sandoval and Chris Daly trying to re-politicize Muni?

Supervisor Sandoval, considered DOA in his re-election bid this year, has created a ballot proposal to re-politicize Muni. This can only be described is a desperate nut job of a political move, but you can see why Sandoval thinks it might help his campaign, regardless of the consequences for Muni riders. Sandoval's District 11, in Muni geography, is the furthest from downtown. So while Sandoval's proposal would actually make things worse, he is hoping that getting it on the ballot will provide him a political vehicle to complain his way to re-election.

Daly' push to reject Muni's budget is another attempt to re-introduce political cheapness into transit planning. The fact that transit guru Michael Burns is satisfied with his budget makes Daly's gesture to the unions look even cheaper.

Hopefully, the mere thought of Chris Daly and Gerardo Sandoval tinkering under the hood of Muni is enough reason for voters to keep Muni politics free.

But the Board of Supervisors is going to have to stand up to Chris Daly's grandstanding on Muni's budget. If Daly is allowed to support union budgets over riders, Muni will have turned around again, this time heading back in the wrong direction. On June 29, at least four Supervisors are needed to keep Daly from playing with Muni.

Here's hoping that four votes for reason can be found.

- Bob Brigham
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