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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Sup. Gerardo Sandoval re-screws Muni?

Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval has a plan for Muni. Take 1999's Proposition E and undo it.

In 1999, then Supervisor Gavin Newsom and Rescue Muni were joined by an overwhelming majority of the voters to take the politics out of Muni.

It worked, Muni drastically improved.

Today at the Board of Supervisors, Gerardo Sandoval was one of four Supervisors who sought to re-politicize Muni be rejecting the MTA budget. While smarter minds prevailed, only the voters can save Muni from Supervisor Sandoval this fall.

Here is what the transit group Rescue Muni has to say about Sandoval's plan:

Rescue Muni Opposes Sandoval Amendment;
Measure Would Gut Muni Reform

Rescue Muni, San Francisco's transit riders' association, condemned a charter amendment proposed by Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval. The organization urges the Board of Supervisors to reject it in tomorrow's Rules Committee hearing.

The measure reverses much of 1999's Proposition E, which took much of the power over Muni away from the Board of Supervisors and vested it with a Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors. The measure also caps the MTA executive director's salary at $250,000.

"The Sandoval Amendment is nothing but a power grab at the expense of Muni riders," said Rescue Muni chair Andrew Sullivan. "There's a good reason the voters took Muni away from the Board of Supervisors. Years of politically motivated budgets left service in a shambles. Returning control to the supervisors is a formula for Muni being micromanaged by politicians. When the supervisors controlled the Muni budget, it meant budget cuts with no service cuts, leading to the situation we had in the 1990's of random, unplanned service cuts, which is the worst outcome of all."

"Setting the executive director's salary in the city charter is absurd," added Rescue Muni vice chair Daniel Murphy. "We want Muni to be able to attract the best and brightest to that position. We're competing with scores or urban transit systems for top managers, and if we can't offer a competitive salary, we're going to be stuck with less than ideal candidates, or with local political hacks.

"The bottom line is that Proposition E is working," said Sullivan. "Service is vastly more reliable today than it was when the supervisors controlled the Muni budget. Our independent riders' survey shows it, and so do Muni's own numbers. By our measurement, for example, Muni has cut delays in half since 1998. It's amazing that, in the face of the massive improvements we've seen, some politician would say, after just four years, 'no, let's go back to the old system.' That's just crazy. Supervisor Sandoval is trying to fix something that isn't broken. Now is the wrong time to turn back the clock."

"We have our disagreements with Muni management, and with the MTA Board, but we're not feeling nostalgic for the days of the Metro Meltdown," said Murphy. "And we have no idea why Supervisor Sandoval would want to gut Proposition E after the dramatic improvements of the last several years."

Rescue Muni is a transit riders' organization for customers of Muni. It was founded in 1996 by Muni riders seeking to improve the system's reliability, service, and safety. The organization conducts an annual riders' survey, serves as a citizens' watchdog group for Muni, and promotes expansion of transit service in San Francisco. Rescue Muni co-sponsored November 1999's Proposition E for Muni reform after circulating its own charter amendment earlier that year and participating in City Hall negotiations. Rescue Muni is an independent, nonpartisan group run by volunteers and supported solely by its members' dues.

- Bob Brigham
Bay to the Beltway
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