Breaking: Ed Reiskin Lays Off “Roughly a Dozen” Managers at SFMTA

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin has laid off “roughly a dozen” executive staff members at the agency, according to a letter sent to staff today provided by spokesperson Paul Rose. Rose said the agency is not releasing any names yet.

In the letter, Reiskin says the move is intended to reduce the agency’s budget deficit:

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I’m writing to give you a brief budget update.  As we’ve been focusing on developing a balanced budget for the next two fiscal years, FY 12-13 and FY 13-14, for the MTA Board’s consideration next month, we’ve also been developing means of closing our current – FY 11-12 – budget shortfall.  We are currently projected to spend nearly $30 million more than we’ve budgeted and what our revenues can support.  We cannot end the fiscal year with expenditures exceeding revenues, so we need to take corrective steps now to ensure we end the year balanced.

To that end, I’m initiating a number of actions to reduce expenditures between now and the end of the fiscal year.  These actions include freezing certain non-personnel expenses (contracts, materials), unencumbering funds for certain purchases that will not be completed this fiscal year, reducing overtime expenditures, and eliminating management positions.

While all of these reductions will be challenging, the most difficult by far is the position elimination.  I have eliminated roughly a dozen management positions, most of which are filled.  Managers in our agency play a vital role in planning and overseeing the resources that enable the MTA to function.  But as we need to reduce expenditures, I’ve decided to eliminate these positions so that we can preserve front-line service.

Change like this is difficult and can be disruptive, especially for the impacted employees.  We have endeavored to implement this change with the greatest possible amount of respect and sensitivity.  We are providing whatever assistance we can to help those transitioning out, and will work to provide for a smooth transition for the rest of the organization.

In the long run, these changes will leave us with a more sustainable management structure as we enter the next fiscal cycle.  I will continue to keep you posted as to the next steps with this change and budget development generally.

As always, your feedback is welcome.



Reiskin, who is known for having made major reforms as the previous director of the Department of Public Works, was hired as SFMTA director last July. His predecessor, Nat Ford, was criticized for a lack of committment to the agency.

Could this be a sign that the new director is cleaning house?

Sources have named a few mid-level managers in departments like parking enforcement, customer service, and operations safety, but we’ll provide updates as we get them.

  • Wow. He’s actually laying off people at the top instead of drivers, mechanics, janitors, etc.

    My respect for Ed Reiskin just doubled.

  • Anonymous

    Pension Tsunami?

  • Velowonder

    We don’t yet know who has been let go. Perhaps they were very hard working and did the best they could in their positions just like frontline workers, but were caught up in circumstances beyond their control. I pray that we not be judgmental but instead show some empathy. They may have families like the rest of us. it is difficult for anyone to lose their job in this still recovering economy. As Ed himself said, this should be done with sensitivity and respect.

  • Mario Tanev

    One problem that Muni has had is a shortage of line managers (dispatchers?) whose job is to ensure that resources are appropriately redeployed to avoid bunching and gaps. Muni needs more of them to provide better reliability, so I hope they haven’t been cut.

  • the folks down at TWU are trying to figure out what to do with their “CUT FROM THE TOP” signs…

  • Ubringliten

    I think this is great news, and maybe we can see improvement.  Clean out the managers than the subordinates.  It is after all the managers are dictating the working environment.  I have worked for two very large companies, and it’s always the little guys who get axed.  There is a good reason why managers are cut and not the subordinates.

  • icarus12

    Knowing a bit about San Francisco City Employee culture, it is astounding that a department head is actually laying off managers.  This is almost unheard of.  It portends real change within the affected department.  If Reiskin is willing to cut deadwood, he appears to have the authority (from the mayor?) to implement far reaching and controversial reforms opposed by various interests.

    Now, if those managers simply transfer laterally to other city departments, that would be in keeping with the way the “City Family” operates: a city job somewhere in its 26,000+ employee net is for life, no matter how little work you do, how poorly you perform on the job, etc. Could Streetsblog let us know if the 12 affected managers will be transitioning out of SF govt employ or transferring to other departments?

  • Mario Tanev

    Today I learned that someone I know is among those laid off. The reason I know that person is because I recently went to SFMTA’s office to gain a better understanding of the FY13/FY14 proposed budget with a list of complex questions in hand. I had never met that person before. My meeting with them was scheduled one hour before end of business day Friday, and I was specifically told by the meeting coordinator that said person had a long commute and needed to leave in one hour. Whenever a question couldn’t be answered, that person went to look for records and for other employees who could answer it. That person stayed more than an hour late just to make sure all my questions were answered.

    I don’t know how well that person performed at their job. I don’t know if laying them off has made SFMTA more efficient, or if this was simply the better of two evils. However, I do know that that person tried their best to be responsive to the public, and I really appreciated that. It’s expected in our cynical society that a government worker would not provide a courteous service, and go out of their way, but in this case society was proven wrong.

    We may never know the exact reasoning behind this move, so how can we cheer? It may be a good move symbolically, in weakening the “chop from the top” strawman, but I doubt the savings from this move are great. 

    Even if this is the right move, those people deserve compassion, since some of them have worked there for a long time and it may be difficult for them to find another job. Their whole life is turned upside down. It may be particularly shocking if you work in such a narrow field, where the next job waiting may be well below/outside your skill set. I wish them all success.

  • icarus12

    Mario, I am glad the person in question was very helpful to you, but I wonder at a work culture in which a manager would schedule a meeting for 1 hour before the end of the work day on Friday.  Further, what in the heck is somebody doing telling a client/customer/public advocate such as yourself that the meeting will end at 5 sharp due to the manager’s commute schedule?  To me, that is not user-friendly from the get-go, and certainly does not reflect the professionalism I expect from any manager anywhere.  So no, I remain unimpressed.

  • Mario Tanev

    icarus12, I remain unimpressed with your comment because you’re just being judgmental without knowing the facts.

    Here is what happened. I am fully employed somewhere far from SFMTA’s office. I had to take a vacation day off of work in order to be able to make it to the meeting. The meeting was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. with person X. Turns out, 30 minutes before the meeting, person X was a victim of unexpected circumstances and couldn’t make it. That person was all booked up for meeting until the end of business day. I was told to reschedule for the following meeting. I explained that I have already sacrificed a vacation day, and I am afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it again.

    The meeting coordinator (not a manager at all, just a person who schedules meetings) told me they would look into what they could do. Apparently they could find someone else who’s qualified: person Y. But that person was themselves occupied until 4 p.m. It was the only time slot available. It was either 4 p.m. or no meeting. To be courteous to person Y, the coordinator informed me of their circumstances, in order to see if a 1 hour meeting is sufficient for me. My original meeting was planned to last 1 hour, so I thought I could make it in 1 hour, and I was fully intending to keep to that one hour, thus I agreed, and so the meeting was scheduled.

    Person Y was really engaged in the conversation with me, and it turned out some of my questions were more complex than I had thought and it took longer to answer. Because person Y didn’t want to leave me without all the answers, even though I offered to wrap up the meeting, the meeting went long.

    I don’t think ANYONE did their job poorly in this circumstance. Person X has a very busy schedule, person Y has a very busy schedule, perhaps a notch less than person X. Person Y and the schedule coordinator simply tried to accommodate me.

    If you want user-friendly then more people would need to be hired, not dismissed. Because to me user-friendly would mean that I could schedule this meeting within a reasonable amount of time, that someone would be able to attend the meeting, and that if something came up they would have a backup to be able to handle it. All of these things require resources for which nobody is willing to pay.

    I’m sorry icarus12, but you’re just a blabber-mouth. Both advocates and SFMTA operate in a constrained environment and everyone is over-extended. After this last round of dismissals, people would be even more over-extended. I don’t cheer for that. Perhaps it’s better than service cuts, but I will take none of your cynical attitude in this regard.

    Thank you person Y, and no thank you, icarus12.

  •  It’s housecleaning from past admin. Watch, in a few months these position will quietly be filled with candidates of Mr. Reiskin’s choosing.  Happens occasionally.  I am not hopeful of culture change in protecting management positions as the expense of public services.

  •  Wait and see if the positions remain unfilled.  Are they cut from the budget or just remaining unfilled currently as salary savings?  Watch if they are filled with Reiskin approved candidates in a few months and then praise Mr. R.  This is house cleaning of prev. admin loyalists.

  • icarus12

    Mario, your insults are unnecessary, and more importantly, off the mark.  The way you first described your loving encounter with a SFMTA official indicated how impressed you were by his/her deigning to meet with you. You indicated that official’s main concern was getting out of there by five pm due his/her long commute.  That’s it.

    Now, YOU have provided more information.  Yet you blame me for not being impressed by your first version of the story of SFMTA official’s willingness to do an interview.  You are a constant transit advocate, part of an organized group that does a lot for the public.  Your queries to the SFMTA should be a high priority for the agency.  Don’t blame me or others for not being awed by a simple act of public information giving to recognized transit advocate.  And that’s particularly true, if you can’t bother the first time to explain the circumstances.

  • Jhonstewart

    I think some were moved to other positions and others had to be let go for incompetence. I am certain, he will fill these positions right after contract negatiations, which by the way are going on with MTA base line employees. I hope Joy Huligan is gone, She does not have an Iota of compasion or decency towards any employee.

  • another disposable SF taxpayer

    Before the 25 million dollar cable car revitalization on California St., neighbors were told that there would be attention to fixing the rattling plates.
    A quick fix: purchasing cushions for the plates and installing them. Guess what? Nothing happened. For two years, neighbors of the illustrious and historic cable car have been pleading with SFMTA to give this attention.
    The reward: SFMTA shows up at 2am and works until after 4am sledge-hammering metal, yelling, and smoking cigarettes.
    Not working on the plates of course. No notice to neighbors. Just pure hell.
    The Department of Public Health and SFMTA don’t care. 
    Try going to work or driving after 2 hours of sleep. SFMTA gets over-time. Why should they care?
    All talk, fancy noise ordinance, no action: the SF civil servant at work.


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