The Board of Supervisors, for the second time this month, voted 6-5 this afternoon against a motion to reject the MTA’s $778 million budget. BOS Prez David Chiu and Sophie Maxwell were among those not supporting a rejection. The vote came despite Supervisor John Avalos’ announcement that he had a commitment from MTA Chair Tom Nolan to come up with a different budget if supervisors rejected it.
Transit advocates, frustrated over the decision, said they are planning
to rally behind Avalos’ proposed charter amendment to
reform the MTA Board, which is appointed by the Mayor. They felt a rejection of the budget was the only way to force a better plan, which they say is unfairly balanced, with riders taking a bigger hit than drivers.
But Chiu, who pointed out that he rides Muni more than any other supervisor and is the only member of the Board who doesn’t own a car, said "we have come quite a ways" since the first MTA budget was proposed. He said the upcoming debate over the city budget is going to "make this debate look like child’s play."
"In fact, as I’ve done the math, we’ve come about 30 million dollars from where the original budget was," said Chiu, who proposed the original rejection motion. "It is time for us to move forward."
Chiu’s office said the $30 million he was referring to is a $15 million reduction in work orders, the $10.3 million worked out in a compromise, and $5 million in anticipated parking revenues, assuming the MTA moves forward with stronger parking enforcement.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, in an interview after the vote, said he believed it was still possible to get the MTA to make more concessions because "a strong message has been sent," but said he is going to back Avalos’ charter amendment, which could appear before voters as soon as November, assuming there are six votes on the Board to place it on the ballot. The amendment would see three members of the MTA Board appointed by the Board of Supervisors, three by the Mayor and one elected.
Supervisor David Campos, who criticized the MTA and its Chief Nat Ford for not following through on any of the recommendations in the proposed "Transit Justice Package," called today’s vote a loss for Muni riders.
"I think while this budget is better than the original budget it is one that can be much better and I’m disappointed in the Board of Supervisors for not pushing the envelope to push Muni to do the right thing," he said, adding that he feels the one good thing that came out of the process was Avalos’ proposed charter amendment.
"I don’t think this would have happened if we had a truly independent MTA Board that deliberated without any political pressure, so it points for the need to move forward on that as quick as we can."
Ford pledged during testimony before the Board that the MTA would not make any further service cuts or fare increases other than what’s been proposed. He said he would need 90 days to study the possibility of beefing up parking enforcement on Sundays and evenings before taking a plan to the MTA Board.
Asked by Streetsblog whether putting parking enforcement back on the table was a real possibility considering opposition from the Mayor (even if a study were to favor it), Ford responded: "I think that’s premature at this point to assume that. I think, if we have a reasonable plan that takes into account all the impacts, I have found with the Mayor as well as the Board of Supervisors that they’ve been supportive of some of those suggestions we’ve made and in this case we need a little bit of time."
Tom Radulovich, the executive director of Livable City, said today’s decision continues to raise questions in his mind about whether the MTA, as it exists, is really working.
"They’re not delivering any of the service they’ve promised to, in terms of on-time performance. There’s a provision of the charter which says the MTA Board shall deligently seek new revenue sources, not just fare increases, but new revenue sources to support Muni operations. We’ve not seen them act very deligently in the 10 year history of the MTA. They’ve been pretty chicken and more often than not have gone to the riders."