Newsom Speaks Out on MTA Budget; Vote to Reject Hinges on Maxwell

newsom.jpgMayor Gavin Newsom and wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom (left) at a ceremony Monday honoring teachers. Newsom spoke to reporters about the MTA budget after the event.

On the eve of a possible rejection of the MTA’s budget by the Board of Supervisors over widely unpopular fare hikes and service cuts, Mayor Gavin Newsom told reporters at City Hall that he is not playing a game of chicken, and hopes supervisors do not "make the mistake" of approving the motion by BOS Prez David Chiu.  

"It will be devastating to the impact of our general fund money," said Newsom, who has been accused by some advocates of using scare tactics in the debate over the MTA budget. "They haven’t even seen the total budget yet they increase the total budget deficit by 30 million dollars and I don’t think that’s going to help anyone." (Hear raw audio of his remarks to reporters below).

Sources involved in the negotiations, however, say the MTA has not made
any changes to the budget since last week’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting, which means the Board of Supes will today consider
approving Chiu’s motion to reject the $778 million spending plan as it was presented. Chiu had hoped the MTA would "sharpen its pencils" and come back with a better budget.

"There is a voter mandate and moral covenant to the voters that we are
committed to a 21st century transit and transportation system and we’re
not prepared to abrogate that," said David Noyola, an aide to Chiu.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty will not vote for the
motion, a reversal of his earlier vote on the budget committee, leaving Supervisor Sophie Maxwell as the swing. Contacted by
Streetsblog San Francisco late last night, Maxwell said she will
"possibly" be voting to reject the budget, but is still considering it.
Chronicle reporter Rachel Gordon wrote
that the Mayor’s office would likely put "the full court press"
on Maxwell, who had been listed as a co-sponsor.

Dufty has also been feeling heat from the Mayor’s office and said in a brief interview this morning that he feels the motion "is going to create more discord in a very, very difficult year." He said he’s confident MTA Chief Nat Ford will be able to make some enhancements within the 5 percent of the budget he has discretion over.

"I think that while the dollar amounts aren’t large the issues are significant. Whether it’s the Lifeline pass, whether it’s rolling back the youth and senior fares, whether it’s trying to provide some enhancements to the TEP or getting a little more angle on the work orders. There’s some good things to be done, but right now I feel this resolution is really unfortunately going to upend us moving forward with the budget."

The five expected to vote in favor of the motion with Chiu are Supervisors David Campos, Ross Mirkarimi, John Avalos, Eric Mar and Chris Daly. A total of seven votes are needed.

A
rejection would mean $30 million from the general fund would be directed to the MTA to subsidize its operations at current levels, staving off fare hikes and
route eliminations. City attorneys, however, are still trying to
clarify the language in the City Charter because it would be the first
time the Board has voted to reject the budget since Proposition E was passed in 1999. The measure established the MTA and the MTA Board. The charter states:

Should
the Board reject the budget, it shall make additional interim
appropriations to the Agency from the Municipal Transportation Fund
sufficient to permit the Agency to maintain all operations through the
extended interim period until a budget is adopted.

The thinking behind this language was apparently to safeguard Muni service and prevent the transit system from grinding to a halt over a budget showdown. It appears less likely the MTA Board will convene and approve a new budget, so the $30 million will make up for the cost savings the MTA was hoping to achieve through fare hikes and service reductions.

The Mayor, speaking to reporters following a ceremony honoring local principals and teachers, said he has spent the last five days working almost exclusively on the MTA budget. 

“It’s very easy to oppose this budget. I would love to oppose this budget. Nothing would make me more pleased than to oppose the budget but at the end of the day you have an absence of options and a climate where you have declining revenue and serious state cuts that put us in this position and we have to submit a balanced budget. I don’t have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines and talking about the way the world should be."

Responding to a question from Streetsblog San Francisco about why Sunday and evening parking enforcement was taken off the table, Newsom said "the collective wisdom" from supervisors he spoke to was that those items should be eliminated.

When asked what he thinks about the fact that Muni riders are paying more than drivers in this budget (estimates say the ratio is 4 to 1), Newsom responded that’s only true "when the budget is taken out of context" and argued that over the years "it’s been fairly balanced."

"Look at what we’ve done in the last few years. There have been dramatic increases in parking, fines and fees related to automobile use. So, you have to look at the totality of the last few years and I think assess it in proportion to what’s happened over the years, not in isolation," said Newsom.

Hear the Mayor’s entire remarks to reporters here: 

[audio: http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/upload1/NewsomonMTABudget.mp3]

We’ll be tweeting coverage of today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, which begins at 2 p.m. If you’re not one of our Twitter followers, become one now

Updated 10:31 a.m.

  • Gavin says “It would be very easy to oppose this budget” when in fact going against the Mayor and forcing action is the tough choice. David Chiu is a blessing for the City. Should Bevan follow this direction he will be getting a note from this District 8 constituent, and he will not get my vote for Mayor.

  • SfResident

    Agree w/ murphstahoe. This other district 8 constituent is also hopping mad that Bevan would vote to approve this monstrosity of a budget. I don’t see a political future for any supervisor who thinks that destroying transit in the city is a good long-term solution.

  • If we were to combine maintaining service with increased fares, and put 7 day a week metered parking in all non-residential areas, would this be opposed? There appears to be a need for compromise here, with everyone giving something to move forward. Why are these discussions always an all or nothing proposition?

  • Bevan Dufty has been casting terrible votes and playing sleazy old-fashioned, small town San Francisco politics since the day he was elected. I’ve found that the best attitude to take is not to expect anything from him, which will allow him to occasionally surprise one with a good vote or idea. He learned his trade at the knee of Willie Brown, Jr. so there really is nothing forward-looking about him at all, and probably never will be.

  • I already wrote Bevan an email today voicing my concern. He will also not get a vote from me…

  • Chris

    Last time I checked, if you get a parking ticket you are (95% of the time) at fault. You also have a choice to drive to the city and park. Also, if you drop $100 on a meal, an extra $2 on parking is couch change. For us real San Franciscans who take the bus, we have already dealt with a 50% fare increase in the past few years. We will be looking at a 100% increase in the current budget and less service. NOBODY comes to the City on Sundays just because of free meters. And half the folks who park in the evening have no clue when the meters switch to free. I propose change the meter time to 8PM but do not enforce it for 3 months. Give people a chance to adjust.

  • the greasy bear

    What is the argument for granting private motorists free parking on our public streets while simultaneously socking it to public transit riders?

  • CBrinkman

    The MTA’s own studies (from congestion charging research) show that car drivers visit commercial districts in SF less often and spend less per visit then transit riders and self propelled visitors – so why not charge them on evenings and weekends – why the free ride when they don’t contribute as much?

    Parking; the 3rd rail of SF politics. I e-mailed Sup Dufty but I imagine he and Sup Maxwell are getting the full court press. I do not envy them today. Hold firm Sup Maxwell!

  • Adrienne it’s an all or nothing decision at this point because the Mayor’s MTA Board refused to listen to their own staff, to the owner/riders of Muni, or the Board. They have caved and allowed the Mayor to use the MTA as a cash machine for other departments with work orders that violate the 2007 Measure A that voters approved to give the MTA more money.

    This is the only option and it is really unfortunate to see Bevan Dufty go back on his vote and cave in to the Mayor. I was wondering if his muni advocacy of late was for real or just a ploy and I guess we have answer.

  • Schtu

    How come there has not been talk of an increase in Residential Parking Permit fees. I just renewed mine and frankly it is too low. I get preferential parking for about $6.50 a month? It should be double that at minimum.

  • SfResident

    Remember y’all, don’t just e-mail your supervisor – e-mails are too easy to ignore and delete, call them. If nothing else, you know that the mayor and his flunkies are going to be out in full-force so us pro-transit folk might as well throw our voices into the mix.

    Some handy numbers:

    Dufty – (415) 554-6968

    Maxwell – (415) 554-7670

  • “There have been dramatic increases in parking, fines and fees related to automobile use”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but parking meter rates will have gone up by about the same percent (100%) since 2003 if this fare increase is approved. Parking tickets by much less, fees even less so.

    And enforcement of those fees and rates is minimal, as reported here among other places. My favorite quote about parking revenue enforcement, by former Supe McGoldrick:

    “Heck, if we got it up to a 50 percent collection rate, we could offer free massages on the buses”

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