Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The MTA Budget Controversy at the Supes

A special Board of Supervisors meeting was held at noon today to discuss whether or not to reject the Metropolitan Transit Authority's upcoming budget which relies on 25% fare hikes to its customers along with reduced service.

The new Board of Supervisors president David Chiu was the first to bring up the idea of rejection because the Mayor's Office has been using the MTA as its personal cash cow, authorizing work orders for everything from salaries for Newsom's "environmental" aides to $80 million in compensation towards the San Francisco Police Department for vague, undefined, nonexistent security.

The board was split pretty evenly between those who don't give a damn about their constituents who ride Muni and those who do, so I asked Hope Johnson (above) what was going to happen. "It all comes down to Sophie Maxwell. She's the swing vote. Everything else is just posturing."

As usual, Hope was absolutely correct. Supervisor Avalos, who had marched over to Nathaniel Ford's offices a couple of weeks ago demanding a more transit-friendly budget, started off with a grandstanding speech about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" which didn't make a lot of allegorical sense.

Then it was time for Nathaniel Ford, the $350,000+ Executive Director of the MTA to tell us what had changed in the budget since last week's Board of Supervisors meeting, which turned out to be virtually nothing.

His mendacious presentation, delivered in fluent bureaucratese, was followed by a presentation from MTA Board Chairman Tom Nolan, who is originally from the Peninsula where the car is king. (For some background on how we got here, click here for an article in Streetsblog by Bryan Goebel and click here for an article by Marc Norton on how the $2 fare has been planned for years.)

After speeches by Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, Eric Mar and David Campos on why the MTA budget was a disaster, Sophie Maxwell stood up and complimented her "colleagues on feeling so passionate about this subject." However, she had obviously been "persuaded" somehow before the meeting to vote with the old power structure, and she then proceeded to stab her colleagues and all of her constituents in the back.

Supervisor Chris Daly, sitting next to Maxwell, had kept his mouth shut throughout the entire meeting but his colleague's speech obviously stretched whatever patience he was displaying so he slipped around the back of the chamber and went to joke quietly with the press section.

As bad as Maxwell's speech was, the vote and speech from Board President David Chiu was worse. Since his initial challenge of the MTA budget, Mr. Chiu has been weaseling his votes this way and that in one committee or another, and today was no different. He started by proclaiming that he was the only one who didn't have a car and who dependended on Muni for transportation, and that the Board had managed $30 million in concessions during this MTA budget controversy which was a new record. In truth, he has been playing both sides against the middle, and who got shafted were the citizens of San Francisco (click here for Greg Dewar's rant on this point at N Judah Chronicles).

Whenever I go to City Hall to buy my 25% more expensive Fast Pass every month, I'll be sure to remember Mr. Chiu and Ms. Maxwell along with Supervisors Bevan Dufty, Sean Elsbernd, Carmen Chu, and Michaela Alioto-Pier who was smiling and giggling in her wheelchair during most of the meeting.

Above all, I will be thinking of our phony baloney environmental Mayor Newsom and his retinue of chauffeurs and guards.

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