Supervisor Campos: SFMTA Board Hand-Picked by Mayor “Not Working”

3427972522_855b1fb8c3.jpgSupervisor David Campos at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting on SFMTA work orders last year. Photo: Bryan Goebel

There’s been a lot of attention lately on how much the Mayor’s office controls the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s (SFMTA) budget process. The Mayor makes all seven SFMTA Board appointments, generally with an expectation of complete loyalty, ensuring that it’s the Mayor who ultimately calls the shots behind the scenes.

Now a ballot measure proposal making its way through the drafting process could change that and a lot more.

Sitting down with Streetsblog in his office yesterday, Supervisor David Campos made the case that it’s time to tweak Muni’s governance yet again.

"We believe that the current structure where the Mayor appoints all members of the MTA Board is not working," he said.

A working group of transportation advocates, community groups and fellow supervisors Eric Mar and Ross Mirkarimi has been hammering out the details of a three-part ballot measure that would likely give the supervisors appointing-power over three of the SFMTA Board seats. The measure would likely also change the way the budget process works and address a broad array of labor issues.

The working group hasn’t settled on specifics yet for SFMTA budget procedure, but Campos said it hopes to address several concerns, especially the perceived lack of meaningful input from Muni’s ridership on what the budget looks like.

"We feel that we need more input and more meaningful input by the ridership," said Campos. "I think that a lot of people feel frustrated that the budget options at this point seem to be: you cut service or you increase fares."

Unlike the appointed SFMTA Board, Campos argued that the district-elected Board of Supervisors would be more responsive to public feedback around the budget.

"In the process of doing that," said Campos, the goals would be "making sure that riders are represented in the decision-making, making sure that all options are explored, in terms of budget options, [and] making sure that there is an independent analysis of what is happening or not happening within the MTA."

The labor component of the measure will likely be influenced by the pending results of a management audit.

"I think that we recognize that we have to address some of the labor issues that have been raised," said Campos. That means labor issues anywhere from the operators — which Supervisor Sean Elsbernd’s proposed ballot measure already seeks to address — to management, which is the target of the audit.

Campos hasn’t seen the results of that audit yet, which should also inform the Supervisors’ up-or-down vote on the SFMTA’s two-year budget in the coming weeks, but he stressed that it would be followed by a more comprehensive audit of the agency due this summer, the first since the 1990s.

Groups like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), the new San Francisco Transit Riders Union, as well as Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich have given feedback on the ballot measure, which Campos stresses is still far from set in stone. It will need to come before a Board of Supervisors committee in the next month to stay on track for the November election.

Supervisors to Consider SFMTA Budget

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee will be holding a hearing on May 5 to examine the SFMTA’s two-year budget, which continues 10-percent service cuts into fiscal year 2011 and rolls them back by half in fiscal year 2012. That hearing will be followed by the rollout of the service cuts on May 8, part of a cost-cutting measure the SFMTA took to balance its budget for the current fiscal year.

Campos reiterated what he said at a San Francisco County Transportation Board hearing yesterday: He’s not convinced the SFMTA staff and board have looked under every rock for alternatives to service cuts or fare increases.

Campos would like to hear more about reducing work orders, as well as short-term revenue measures like extending parking meter hours, and long-term money generators like potential revenue-raising ballot measures. The supervisors will also be grilling SFMTA staff on the specifics of the service cuts, he said, including whether the most-packed lines can be spared cuts during peak hours.

As for rider feedback on the budget process, there’s no need to wait until the SFMTA Board appointment process changes, if it ever does (and some argue that the Board of Supervisors should have less say over Muni, which 2007’s Proposition A ensured). As it stands now, the public will get its first chance to speak on the fiscal years 2011 and 2012 budget before a body it elected at next Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee meeting.

"I think that it does make a difference when riders come and become a part of the process," said Campos. "Involvement is really key, in terms of [Muni riders’] role, if you have specific ideas of things we need to look at, because we try to think of everything, but sometimes we miss things."

  • Fran Taylor

    Flyers and signs on the buses before the latest round of hearing said boldly, “Your Opinion Counts.” Yet how many of the hundreds of riders who testified at this spring’s town halls and hearings said they wanted service cuts? None! Meanwhile, the SFMTA website posts the details of the 10% cuts even before a vote is taken in favor of them. Obviously, “your opinion” goes straight to the round file with the current board.

  • andrew

    How is this different from last time, when this exact proposal was defeated by 64% of the voters?

  • JohnB

    Fran

    The reason that nobody opposed the cuts at those public meetings is because only pro-transit activists ever show up at them.

    The average voter and taxpayer is too busy working or living his life to show up. But he does vote for a Mayor trusting him to appoint professional managers who will take all opinions into account.

    And that of course is Andrew’s point. The voters don’t want the Board to be politicized.

  • I’m a transit activist and I work.

  • psychoslacker666

    @JohnB – So “transit activists” are nothing but deadbeats with no lives. Meanwhile, you somehow have the time to post anti-transit remarks to everything, no matter how contrived. Riiiiiiiight.

  • the hearings were a joke – even the MTA’s own staff said as much. It was to make you all feel better, not to actually do anything meaningful. Nathaniel Ford has to go – he is not qualified or able to lead the MTA in tough times.

    as for the proposal – last time there was absolutely no campaign whatsoever run on behalf of the measure. It was just put on there by some hippies and then they did nothing to get it passed. it rotted.

    as for the mayor- he can’t be trusted, so something has to change. is this the best way? I have no idea. But as is we have an MTA that’s the personal fiefdom of a boy prince who has no care whatsoever for transit. the result is the shitty Muni you have. If you like that then by all means keep on going with that.

  • “But he does vote for a Mayor trusting him to appoint professional managers who will take all opinions into account.”

    I think it’s pretty clear we put our trust in the wrong place. Pretty no matter what your pet issue is.

  • patrick

    I think there should be 2 appointed by mayor, 2 by BOS, and 2 by direct citywide election.

  • Nick

    Does it really matter who is on the MTA board? MUNI is quickly becoming an unfixable social problem similar to the lack of standards in public schools or inner city violence.

    People have advocated for generations for change and yet the problems still exist because they are systemic. The only immediate solution is to remove oneself from the sitation; and in MUNI’s case this means more people buying cars.

  • JohnB

    Nick,

    I agree. Muni’s problems are structural, and based on the same factors that plague SFUSD, public safety and any other part of municipal government that you can shake a stick at. The pay and benefits are unsustainably high and the working practices archaic.

    You see the same problems, or worse, in Oakland and the East Bay, where AC Transit is looking to make its second wave of service cuts in a year, while the city and county is hobbled by a doomsday budget deficit.

    And the worse thing you can do to a failing entity is simply throw more and more good money after bad at it. While more BofS influence will simply make it worse.

  • While not a cure all, I think getting the http://www.FixMuniNow.com petition signatures collected to get that language on the ballot is a positive step forward in the right direction.

    Whomever picks the members of the SFMTA, it’d be nice to have a couple of members of that board with some clue that everybody is a pedestrian and they haven’t been living up to the needs of making the cityscape safer for pedestrians.

  • I’ll vote for it, but I’m not going to sign the petition. I think too much is being put on the excuse that nothing can get done until the TWU does something. A LOT can be done, but the MTA is just a stick in the mud. Last year, about this time, the mayor promised the BofS that parking meter extensions would be implemented as a compromise on passing the MTA budget. Here we are one year later and nothing has been done.

    Now we have people calling for the wholesale dismantling of MUNI because “eye’s hates the government.” With no thought as to the social and economic impact losing MUNI would have on the city. Hell, everyone will get a car because if they turn to bikes, that will still clog traffic. We all know the only way to fight traffic is with more traffic!

    I think the audit will do much much more to weed out the MTA’s problems. And if we can get a couple board members that aren’t living in fear of the prince, we might get some actual progress on the streets. Work orders are there to siphon dedicated MTA monies into departments it was not meant to go to. Newsom used them as a way to indirectly fund the police dept and his 311 pet project and in the process he robbed MUNI (and us, the owners).

    Give me a petition that puts an end to work orders and I’ll sing it’s praises from the top of Telegraph Hill to the valley of Noe. But cutting MUNI to a commuter only service (or worse) isn’t going to solve the city’s problems – it will only compound them.

  • As a person who routinely drives a car across this city, the thought of everyone who currently rides a Muni bus driving a car instead is horrifying. I would never be able to get anywhere. Ever. We would all sit in traffic until we rotted.

    Other countries make public transit work well. Are we a different species from the French? Do we have fundamentally different DNA that makes them competent at running subways and buses and us not?

    All the easy oil in the world is gone. The rest is getting more and more difficult to access and pump. I’m sure we’re all heartsick at the 5000 barrels of oil pouring each day into the Gulf of Mexico right now and the environmental havoc it is going to wreak, not to mention the economic damage it will cause the fishing and tourist industries of the area. People on the Gulf coast can already smell it coming. They say it’s like having diesel truck running in your front yard.

    Our love affair with the internal combustion engine has got to end, and in high density areas it is public transit that has got to pick up the slack. For the sake of the environment, for the sake of future generations, even for the sake of the fundamental economic viability of San Francisco, we need to do what it takes to make Muni safe, reliable and pleasant to ride. Other cities manage to achieve this. We can, too.

    I took Muni Tuesday (it actually worked quite well) and rode my bicycle this morning, but this afternoon, I’m going to fill up my car. I know my consumption habits make me just as responsible for the eleven dead workers and the lake of oil inching towards the Louisiana coastline as British Petroleum. When Crissy Field becomes an underwater park and the Great Highway is just a memory, I suppose future generations will nostalgically think our desire to drive private gas guzzling SUVs charming.

  • Jeff Mandelson

    It’s crazy to think giving the Board of Supervisors more control over Muni will improve service. There may be things wrong with the current system, but electing MTA board members or giving the supervisors more power over the system just isn’t the answer.

  • patrick

    My other idea would be to get rid of the MTA Board completely and just have the mayor sign off. Cut out the middle man and let the mayor take the heat when things are not working right.

    I signed the petition and gathered signatures. I agree management is at least as responsible, if not much more, as the operators, and once the union loses it’s charter protection, the management will no longer have anybody else to blame and we can target them next.

  • I’m with Patrick, passing the amendment means no more excuses to just blame TWU for all of Muni’s woes.

    Every time there is a conversation about one of the issues facing SFMTA it seems to end up as a list of other problems with Muni and a debate of which is the worst problem. No one thing is going to magically fix Muni, and if we are ever to see real and substantial change it’s going to come from making a lot of small fixes and each can take years to start having a real impact.

    Please don’t give up on one of the attempts being made to fix Muni because it doesn’t fix everything in one go or you think something else is more important.

  • Nick

    MUNI should modify their mission statement to read: To provide fast, clean, efficient, affordable, and pleasant service. At least try to get one of them down so we can all say “well the buses don’t come all that often and it’s not cheap but they sure are clean.”

  • david vartanoff

    some ugly issues to consider. Unless SF as a city grows a new exoskeleton, getting the work rules AND attitudes TOP to BOTTOM cleaned up, Muni will not improve. The morass of wasted effort, unwillingness to streamline operations,the whole cater to autos policies (4 way stops on arterials, refusal to implement signal priority for transit and more) and RIDER hostile behavior is not going away just by changing how one chooses MTA Board members. This is a citywide problem. An anti F Line letter posted to the Ex site shows how Muni is reviled by some of the citizenry. If the BOS were genuinely serious, they could by statute re arrange some of the priorities. For at least 6 months, the Daily Reports of Muni service show that Mission Street has been consistently the leading victim of not outs. WHERE is the Supe representing those riders???
    Muni has had a problem with out of sequence LRVs outbound in PM rush for years. They COULD fix it, they don’t bother instead whining it is a union work rule problem–NOT TRUE. The real question is when will the riders will revolt enough to get the mayor/BOS to pay attention? As long as greenwash Gavin can do photo ops at “parklets” without fear, nothing will change.

  • forrest

    The racist scapegoating campaign against the drivers might get $9 million more for Muni in a year or so. Ending arbitrary work orders to SFPD, the Technology Dpt, City Attny’s office, and the Admin. Dpt. (the entire staff of those dpts are in the $100k club) could bring in $60 million next week. I wonder why the mayor’s stooges on the MTA board and Elsbernd didn’t support that? It’s not too late to stop the cuts if enough people take the bus to City Hall. morepublictransit.net has called for a rally at City Hall for Wednesday May 5th at noon. If you’re wondering, Muni Operators and Riders Expanding public transit (so far) is made up of TWU 250a, Senior Action Network, POWER, ANSWER, Chinese Progressive Association, Barrio Unido, Livable Wage Coalition, Day Labor Program, and Alianza Latinoamericana por los Derechos de los Inmigrantes. I hope more people get involved to stop the cuts.

  • patrick

    How is having a union negotiate it’s contract like every other union racist?

    I’m all for ending work orders, let’s do that too, doesn’t mean the operator’s should be allowed to have rules that reward poor work ethics.

  • I don’t see how it’s racist either. What use is a union that doesn’t negotiate? I’d be more upset if I was an operator and paying union dues to a union that didn’t do anything. And the more I think about it, once the salary is up for debate, then we can get progress on the work rules.

    I just don’t want to see people think that once the TWU is dealt with that MUNI is all of a sudden going to be awesome. There is a lot of work to be done, and this is just a small step in the right direction. Not saying you believe that patrick, but the public in general.

    As a side note, I’m going from non-fan to being just all out disgusted by POWER. They are the same people who were speaking for ANSWER against the parking meter extensions a year ago while in the same breath complaining about oil wars. So are you for sustainable transit or subsidized parking? Are you against oil wars or do you like cheap gas? Also, at the MUNI summit, they came in complaining about a lack of diversity – it was put on by a group of volunteers, if you want diversity then you should help bring it. No one was stopping you. *steps off soap box*

  • andrew

    It’s not racist to ask the union and management to do their job, which is collective bargaining, rather than sit back and let wages be set by formula.

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