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Livable City

Mayor Newsom to Nominate a Respected Transit Advocate to SFMTA Board

4157574590_e76703a09c_b.jpgCheryl Brinkman at a press conference earlier this year celebrating San Francisco's first new bike lane in three years. In the background is SFMTA Chief Nat Ford. Photo: sfbike

Cheryl Brinkman, one of the original organizers of Sunday Streets who has a strong history of livable streets advocacy, will be nominated today by Mayor Gavin Newsom to serve a four-year term on the SFMTA Board, filling one of two vacancies that have been left empty since May 1, Streetsblog has learned.

"Cheryl Brinkman is exactly the kind of candidate that Mayor Newsom hoped would apply," said Newsom's spokesperson, Tony Winnicker. "She has tremendous experience as a transit rider and is a transit advocate. She will bring great perspective and energy and ideas to the MTA."

The move to nominate a director with such solid credentials was roundly cheered by transit advocates, who applauded the Mayor for choosing such a laudable advocate for sustainable transportation to a board that has been dominated by loyalists who rarely break from Room 200's wishes.

While acknowledging he has a clear bias, Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich called Brinkman a transportation superhero. "She is one of the hard workers and has really worked behind the scenes to make Sunday Streets happen," he said. "I think she's going to be a great asset to the MTA."

Radulovich added that Brinkman is someone who really gets the land use and transportation connection along with the complexities of funding transportation improvements.

Brinkman, 45, is the president of the Livable City Board of Directors, and a senior product manager at McKesson Corporation. A 24-year San Francisco resident, she has logged more than a thousand volunteer hours for Sunday Streets, and in addition to Livable City, serves on the Market-Octavia Citizen Advisory Committee and is the former chair of the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee. She will resign from those positions once she is confirmed by the Board of Supervisors, which has never rejected any of the Mayor's appointments to the SFMTA Board.

"We, at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, are thrilled to hear that Cheryl Brinkman has been nominated to the MTA Board. Cheryl has been a real leader in bringing Sunday Streets to San Francisco, a regular event that gives San Franciscans a new way to enjoy their streets. We look forward to working with Cheryl in her new position on the MTA Board," said Renee Rivera, the SFBC's acting executive director.

3491823669_2c003abf5a.jpgBrinkman poses for a photo in Momentum Magazine. Photo: dustinj

Brinkman and her husband Rich Coffin, an associate principal in the infrastructure division of the design engineering firm Arup, have been car-free since they sold their Honda Civic in early 2001. Both get around by bicycle or Muni.  

"She is committed to public transit and sustainable transportation," said Dave Snyder of the Transit Riders Union, who added that the next appointees to the SFMTA Board
should have the power to think more independently.

"The Mayor knows very well that whoever he appoints doesn't have to
follow his wishes because the appointment is going to last longer than
the Mayor's term and there's nothing he can do about it. He did the
right thing and appointed an excellent candidate."

Jason Henderson, a geography professor at San Francisco State University who sits with Brinkman on the Market-Octavia committee, praised her as a consensus builder who is pragmatic and enthusiastic.

"I think she'll do great and she'll read everything. That's not to say that other people don't read everything, but a lot of times on appointed committees you got people that are there to carry someone else's water and maybe someone else reads it. Cheryl will read things like environmental review documents and budget reports for herself."

One question that was circulating in some political and advocacy circles was whether this appointment and another progressive appointee to the SFMTA Board might lead some progressive supervisors to back off on a charter measure to diversify appointments. The initial indication was no, but word of Brinkman's nomination had not yet filtered through City Hall late Tuesday.

"I appreciate that it seems like he may be selecting MTA commissioners that are more responsive to Muni riders but that doesn't preclude the need for significant Muni reforms," Board of Supervisors President David Chiu told Streetsblog.

Brinkman's nomination must first be confirmed by the Rules Committee before heading to the full Board of Supervisors. The next SFMTA Board meeting is August 6th so presumably it would happen before then.

Winnicker said they are still interviewing candidates to fill the second vacancy that was left open when the terms for Shirley Breyer-Black and James McCray expired earlier this year.

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