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.

  • leah

    Great news! Cheryl will be a fantastic MTA Board member. Big kudos to Newsom & his staff on this one.

  • PeterT

    Please tell me this isn’t the same CBrinkman that writes like a Bike Messenger on Steroids (below). Passionate though she sounds, I can’t see her convincing a senior pol. Way too prejudicial.

    “Bus lane all the way, baby. Even that can be dodgy at times with uptight drivers trying to use it as a fast cut around traffic. I just stick to the center of the transit lane and practice my “deaf cyclist” routine. Honking, nope, don’t hear you honking. Look, I so don’t hear that you that I’m even yawning as I pedal along…. However, that takes courage, and that should not be a requirement for riding a bike in our city.”

  • What a relief it will be to have Cheryl’s voice on the MTA board. Her experience covers all the bases. Congratulations to her — and to everyone who helped move this nomination behind the scenes.

  • andrew

    The Board did reject one nominee a few years ago – I don’t remember his name but he was a union guy.

  • marcos

    Just like Leah Shahum folded like a chair for Newsom when he yanked her chain, Cheryl Brinkman will be used by Newsom in the fall election to demonstrate that he appoints people who give a damn about Muni to the MTA Board of Directors, further forestalling needed reform. Brinkman should refuse the appointment.


  • Andrew, I believe you’re referring to this: and it wasn’t the SFMTA Board. It was a rejection of Larry Mazzola to the GG Bridge District Board.

  • PeterT, what is so prejudicial about ignoring motorists honking at you when on a bicycle and they are trying to use a transit-only lane?

    I’ll take a bicycle and pedestrian advocate on steroids any day.

  • This is good news … For once, Mayor Newsom makes a qualified appointment!

  • patrick

    woo hoo!!!

  • mcas

    @PeterT: “a Bike Messenger on Steroids” is almost the exact opposite of ‘yawning along while I ride’ — and if you’ve ever seen Cheryl on a bike, you’d see she rides in a dignified, respectful and friendly way. And her response to pushy and rude motorists (ignoring them) is a great lesson for everyone, everywhere– always ignore rude people– especially when they are in clearly in the wrong, as in this example.

  • susan

    Way to go, Cheryl! Thanks for all your hard work to get to this point, and thanks in advance for all the hard work you are going to do for the MTA.

  • EL

    @ marcos – Absolutely spot on. I’m really surprised that no one remembers what happened to Leah Shahum – used and thrown away after the re-election.

  • Even if this is a craven political move by Gavin hopefully it will result in a better MTA board. The proof will be in the pudding.

  • marcos

    @EL, this is a trap. A single director can raise issues but can effectively be marginalized.

    The fact that Newsom is trying to scuttle the charter amendment during the budget process and the fact that Newsom is appointing someone who will not be a inanimate carbon rod to the MTA Board as the charter amendment is pending indicates that there is a high likelihood that we will prevail in November.

    I’d support Brinkman for a Board of Supervisors appointment next year if she bows out now, and if everyone who supports MTA reform holds together in solidarity against Newsom’s efforts to undermine reform, we will probably have that chance.

    If Brinkman were to bow out, and Newsom were to appoint more people who care between now and the election, it would be very easy to paint that as Newsom being forced to do the right thing once a reform measure was pending, and that his conduct in this respect is the best argument to pass reform.

    All potential Newsom MTA appointees from the alternative transit community should figure out ways to “spend more time with their families” between now and November.


  • Nick

    Some of the comments are of the mindset that anyone “from the ranks of advocacy” is going to be tainted upon appointment to a mainstream office.

    I don’t buy it. Having people who agree with you in positions of influence can only be a good thing.

  • As if a mayoral appointment could somehow *not* be inherently, irredeemably political. At least there’s a chance this particular choice can result in more livable streets.

  • PeterT –

    I’m having trouble understanding your assessment of that quote as in any way negatively reflective of her views, or in any way close to a “bike messenger on steroids”.

  • But that being said, go Cheryl!

  • marcos

    @greasybear, sometimes, if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.

    Just like starved and abused rats can be counted on to self administer cocaine to the point of death when caged and tethered to an IV, alternative transportation types can also be counted on to take unhealthy risks like a general rule exclusion on the bike plan or giving newsom cover to kill an amendment with a fig leaf appointment.

    If we don’t begin to think strategically, then they are going to continue to run circles around us. Sometimes, sacrificing in the near term results in significantly better outcomes in the mid and long term.

    A reformed MTA Board of Directors will be able to do much more to deliver on Transit First than any appointee to a Newsom MTA Board will be permitted to do over this term.


  • Sue

    Cheryl, congratulations!!!!

    In your position, I hope you ask that extension of parking meter hours be agendized so that at least there is a hearing. The mayor’s supporters — who all oppose extending the hours of parking meter operation — have been very successful at getting that item removed from the agenda so that there is NO DISCUSSION!!!! Transit riders, on the other hand, have been less successful in getting things like service cuts off the agenda and removed from consideration.

    And BTW, come visit us at the MTA CAC (Bruce Oka does once-in-a-while). And if any mayor asks you for your letter of resignation, don’t give it!

  • Sue

    In addition, in no way should this appointment be cause for the supervisors to scuttle their own charter amendment for the reform of Muni.

    We need leadership in this city that truly moves us towards a transit/pedestrian/bicycle-first system in which people think to drive somewhere LAST and in which more and more stretches of roadway every year are being rededicated to bicycle lanes, transit lanes, and widened sidewalks.

    This all needs to happen in conjunction with development that pays its fair share for community benefits and in which the Planning Commission does not cave to developers in their efforts to increase the amount of parking in their projects.

    We need leadership that considers SF ground zero in paradigm shift and the creation of sustainable communities.

    So carry on, supervisors …

  • We’ll see how she does. Newsom will soon be a bad memory, either by getting elected LG or losing and being termed out, so either way, he won’t be able to ruin the MTA too much. So long as Ms. Brinkman doesn’t have a city funded non profit, she should be able to be free of his heavy handed coercion.

  • Nathan

    This is great! I can’t wait to see what kind of a change Cheryl will actually bring to San Francisco.

  • Peter

    Justin, mcas and Aaron

    As I said, I wasn’t doubting Brinkman’s passion. Nor her motives. I think it’s important that all opinions be represented on the Board.

    Nor was I suggesting as others were that this might be tokenism, or that Newsom is offering her up as a sacrificial lamb.

    Rather that she might need to work on her diction and syntactic style if she is now going to be negotiating with heavy hitters. Utterances alike “all the way, baby” and “I am so not hearing you” work well at a Palin rally but not in the corridors of power. Less skateboarder rhetoric and more professional cadence?

    She in fact might want to “so totally hear” others with differing opinions and priorities, e,g, resist describing drivers as “uptight”.

    Little things. I wish her well.

  • gibraltar

    Like some others here, I too would caution and prefer to dampen the enthusiasm. This is no Janette Sadik-Khan situation. How big of an influence such an outsider will have on the SFMTA board, remains to be seen, but if it turns out to be “largely zero”, I won’t be shocked. I see this as one token gesture among many by the mayor and the city, and I think if it was me, I would have declined the “honor”.

  • CRS

    That quote PeterT gave is pretty scary and mean-spirited:

    “Bus lane all the way, baby. Even that can be dodgy at times with uptight drivers trying to use it as a fast cut around traffic. I just stick to the center of the transit lane and practice my “deaf cyclist” routine. Honking, nope, don’t hear you honking. Look, I so don’t hear that you that I’m even yawning as I pedal along…. However, that takes courage, and that should not be a requirement for riding a bike in our city.”

  • Congratulations Cheryl. Great to have your voice on the MTA Board.


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