Board restores some Muni service, but Newsom gets his fare hike

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By Steven T. Jones

After hours of negotiations between the Mayor’s Office (mostly via its representative, Sup. Carmen Chu) and progressive members of the Board of Supervisors, President David Chiu reconvened his colleagues this evening to announce that he had cut a deal on his challenge to Muni’s budget: “I’m happy to say we’ve made good headway.”

Chiu asked MTA chief Nat Ford to announce the terms: the agency would trim $10.3 million from the budget (a $2.8 million reduction in the $66 million it is giving to other city departments, $6.5 million in salary and operations savings and other nips and tucks, and $1 million in increased parking revenue after a 90-day study of extending meter hours) and restore $8.6 million in proposed Muni service cuts, immediately complete MOU negotiations with the SFPD to finally explain why the MTA is giving them millions of dollars every year, and delay by six months increases in what seniors, youth and the disabled will pay for Fast Passes.

Everyone thanked Chiu for taking the lead on challenging the MTA budget and negotiating a settlement to this conflict with Mayor Gavin Newsom, then all the progressive supervisors criticized the package as a bad deal that unduly punishes Muni riders and lets Newsom get away with raiding what is supposed to be an independent agency. "I have to say I'm utterly disappointed with where we are right now," said Sup. David Campos, the first to react to the freshly inked deal.

The board voted 6-5 to drop its challenge of MTA’s budget, allowing fares to increase to $2 and services to be reduced, with Sups. Campos, Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, John Avalos, and Eric Mar in dissent.

Seeming stung by the criticism of his colleagues, Chiu seemed to lay blame where it belonged when he said, “On Friday, the mayor and I had a conversation about this budget and it was made clear to me that there wouldn’t be any movement….We needed to work this out so we could move forward on the myriad issues before us.”

Comments

I for one am sick and tired of ALL the worst of all possible deals, for the people, that the whore in Room 200 is facilitating. There is no democracy, there are no checks and balances, when our elected representatives dont have the cojones to just say no. Putting band-aids on Stage 4 decubitus ulcers is not the answer, it just leads to further compromise of the entire system. The only effective remedy is to root out the causes of the infection. Newsom and his cadre are merely the latest manifestation of the disease. Until we reorder our priorities and focus on care and compassion, not political expediency and corporate profits, we can have no expectation of cure or a return to health.
Thanks to those supervisors who are still, at least for now, performing their sworn to duties as representatives of the people

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN. on May. 13, 2009 @ 8:18 am

Update: Hold on, folks, this fight might not be over yet. This could come back to the board on Tuesday: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/05/14/can-the-board-of-supes-still-force-...

Posted by Steven T. Jones on May. 14, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

Steven,

So are you defending/excusing Chiu for passing the costs onto the working class? I think the residents of San Francisco will be paying a greater price than Newsom.

Posted by Michael Worrall on May. 13, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

Greg,
I'll answer your honest question. I would expect them to simply do what the city charter instructs them to do and that is reject the budget and clearly communicate to the MTA their reasons for doing so. In this case, it is the imbalance between impacts to Muni riders and motorists (and the implications of that imbalance to the city's official "transit-first policy") and the unacceptably high payouts to other city agencies. There were seven votes that supported that, the number that the charter (as amended by the 2007's Prop. A) requires, and plenty of time for the MTA board to develop a new budget by the end of the month.

The "grandstanding" in this case came from the Mayor's Office (which unfortunately wasn't "ineffectual," but should have been), which attacked the independence of an agency that it previously sought to make independent, simply to make its job of coming up with a balanced budget by June 1 easier. While there's nothing wrong with seeking compromise in an effort to maintain good relations with Room 200, this sort of backroom dealing is antithetical to the idea of open, honest government. It isn't how the process is supposed to work and I think it speaks volumes about Newsom's basic hostility to the democracy, transparency, and the separation of powers.

Posted by Steven T. Jones on May. 13, 2009 @ 10:45 am

I just called the Mayor's Office to express my "appreciation" with the Mayor's role in hiking Muni rates by 25%. The Neighborhood Services drone I talked to thanked me for the praise. Sigh. Guess the ability to appreciate sarcasm is not a job requirement for employment in that office.

Posted by Peter on May. 13, 2009 @ 11:26 am

@peter I just called the Mayor's office. . . and nobody picked up. Typical.

Posted by SfResident on May. 13, 2009 @ 10:11 am

Could I vent for one more post?

This damn "compromise" had the word "Chumps" spray-painted across every budgetary line in neon green. Can you imagine what Mayor Sparkly will do to California if he gets hold of the reins of power in Sacramento?

Posted by Peter on May. 13, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

Steve, there's nothing you're saying that I disagree with. This is entirely on Newsom/Muni and their lackeys on the Board. I was mainly trying to defend Chiu specifically for extracting a few concessions from an obstinate mayor who knew he had the votes lined up to keep the budget as-is.

Posted by Greg H. on May. 13, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

I think we're in agreement, Greg. Chiu was placed in a difficult position by Newsom, who bares the blame for making Muni worse and will ideally pay the price for that decision (although he probably believes he'll be in Sacramento by then and just doesn't care).

Posted by Steven T. Jones on May. 13, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

Greg,
I just feel that some people have to take a stand, grandiose and ineffectual though it may be, especially in the face of such overwhelming adversity. I consider that to be the responsibility of our elected representatives, some of whom accept the challenge. I do not believe that the staus quo, compromise and co-option are our only, and definately not our best, options. While I would rejoice in a glorious revolution, I would stop short of execution, even of the most offensive. I am not a 'budget analyst' or well versed in the intricacies and subterfuge of political wheeling and dealing. I'm simply a 65 year old opinionated curmudgeon who has witnessed this same crap continuing over the decades and exercising my right to express my outrage in this forum. While many of the 'downtrodden' may have become resigned to accepting their fate, I suggest that those of us who have so far been more fortunate and turned a blind eye to their suffering, might be well advised to look around and look up, that boot is getting bigger and more of us are now in its path. So no, I dont have the answers, but I do have a few suggestions of places to start. How about an immediate 25% reduction in salaries and perks on all City employees who make over, oh say $125,000 a year. A thorough examination of Newsom's expenditures, starting with public money and 'resources' being directly or indirectly used to finance his political aspirations. How about finding a way to 'divert' monies allocated to retrofitting golf corses, marinas and other 'sacred cash cows' to more pressing needs. Shouldnt be too difficult for the money changers. I forget exactly what the situation was but I seem to remember Newsom proposed at one time to take funds allocated to 'public elections' with a promise to repay at some later date ? Help me here.
And while I admire Chiu for riding Muni, I dont think that paying an extra $100 a year out of a salary approaching $100,000 a year has the same impact as it does on someone who has problems scraping up $1 to pay their fare.
I suggested a cut off figure of $125,000 for pay cuts as I believe that would protect supervisors salaries and make it easier for them to support it. I know its just a little drop in a big bucket, but big oaks from little acorns grow. Just venting before I get on my bike and start visiting my patient. Enjoy the sun while it's still shining.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN. on May. 13, 2009 @ 9:27 am

What would you have done if you were in Chiu's shoes, given the realities that he faced of a lack of needed votes and a refusal to budge on the mayor/Muni side? Short of a glorious revolution in which we execute all offending politicians, what solution do you propose that would actually accomplish something other than ineffectual grandstanding? Honest question.

Posted by Greg H. on May. 13, 2009 @ 8:38 am

SfResident,
...probably all in the back office laying out some lines .... of communication that is....

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN. on May. 13, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

This is no different than the deals which led to the previous two fare increases, in 2003 and 2005, punts on vulnerable passes for a few months along with fare increases for the bulk of Muni riders.

Ford wants to index fares to continue to increase over time. How do we get to a situation where fares go up 100% over six years but wages for riders fall over that time?

The Charter calls for the Mayor, Board of Supervisors and MTA Board to diligently seek out new revenues for the system. Instead of doing that, we see David Chiu aligning with the Mayor and Republicans on the Board of Supervisors to balance the budget on the backs of riders to avoid antagonizing the SFPD which is sucking the life out of Muni like a leech.

-marc

Posted by marcos on May. 13, 2009 @ 5:34 am

The buck stopped with Chiu and he caved. End of story. Thanks David. Won't forget this one! There is also obviously a problem with the MTA. It turned out they are not independent at all under the new setup, but under the Mayor's thumb.

Posted by SCHLIENTZ on May. 13, 2009 @ 4:16 am

Was there ever any doubt about how the votes would line up on this issue ?
"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss ..
There's nothing in the streets,
Looks any different to me,
And the slogans are replaced, Bye-the-Bye".
This probably ranks up there in the top three recent most despicable actions taken by this and previous boards, along with the Lennar scam and the inhumane cuts to Health and Human services.
Should provide some 'interesting talking points' in the next mayoral election, especially in the campaign of a certain sitting supervisor who has his eyes on Room 200.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN. on May. 13, 2009 @ 7:02 am

Michael,
No, I'm not, and I think this budget is going to do real damage to Muni and the city's transportation system. I was just agreeing with Greg when he blamed Newsom for that, rather than Chiu, who would have divided the pain more equally between motorists and Muni riders and further reduced the work order payouts if he felt like he had more leverage. As it was, based on Maxwell's comments the previous day to Streetsblog and others, the swing vote he needed wasn't solid enough for him to really play hardball with Newsom. Maybe he could have gotten a better deal and I wish that he had, but I just don't think this was Chiu's preferred option. In fact, he did more to alter the MTA budget than any board has ever done before. So I'm not excusing him, but just trying to keep this in the proper context. Muni riders who are upset about this should blame Newsom (as well as MTA chief Nat Ford, the city's highest paid employee, who rolled over for Newsom and didn't need to).

Posted by Steven T. Jones on May. 14, 2009 @ 8:39 am

As lousy as this deal is, it seems to me more like Chiu made the best of a bad situation, given that he probably didn't have the votes to reject the budget. Dufty already caved under pressure from the mayor, and Maxwell very likely would have, as well.

Given that Chiu actually rides Muni and seems to sincerely care about its performance, I would have to think that he wouldn't have taken the deal unless he thought was the least-bad possible outcome. Or maybe I'm wrong and he's a whore for Room 200 who wants to make Muni riders suffer just for kicks, as some people here seem to think.

Posted by Greg H. on May. 13, 2009 @ 7:52 am

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