We’re in the middle of Silly Season right now, what with a few things to vote on in November, and much more in 2016. It’s during these times you need to take any news you hear about Muni, especially from “Supervisors,” present and future, with a grain of salt (or more).
Supervisors can do all kinds of damage in the “only in SF” way – with good intentions. Case study : the chatter bouncing around about the Central Subway.
Just a few days ago, State Senate candidate/Supervisor Scott Wiener, doing his very best to Sound Like He’s Wise, posted this tweet:
Well, he IS the guy who says we should always be building something, so he must know what he’s talking about. Right?
Heck it was so important sounding, one of those people “running” for mayor breathlessly quoted it without question.
This was followed up by an article in the Examiner today, this time with “Supervisor” Julie Christensen firing off an oh-so-earned media quote about “lighting bonfires” and Sounding Like She’s Doing Something. Gotta get that money and BUY BUY BUY that expensive land in North Beach. Never mind that it already belongs to someone else who plans on building housing (!) on what has been a pile of decaying rubble for way too long.
I was all set to write a post to detail a response to this nonsense, but Reader Jamison beat me to it with this post that points out a relevant fact – the old “Pagoda Theater” spot is nowhere near where any planned expansion of the Central Sunway will go. Spending millions to buy the land won’t do anything to advance any plans to expand the subway.
Yet here we have not one, but two “Supervisors” cheerleading a major expense, all in the name of Looking Like We Know What To Do, regardless of the facts.
There’s another aspect to this endless talk about a Central Subway expansion that so many learned people seem to forget, or just cover up – there’s simply no money for an expansion of the Central Subway. None. There is certainly no money locally for such a huge project, and after the cost over runs and whatnots that we’ve learned as the project winds down makes one wonder how we’ll ever “always be building subways” the way Supervisor Wiener would have us do.
It is especially unlikely, given the fact the SFMTA’s own accounting of the project was riddled with outright lies, that a hostile Congress is going to blow more money on this expensive monster. The grilling this project would get from the Congress in this universe would make the Watergate hearings look like child’s play.
What’s that? A future “Speaker Pelosi” will get the money? Good luck with that – the chances of the House going Democrat while Pelosi remains in office are dim at best. You’d have better luck playing the lottery than you would betting on Democrats in Washington to come to Muni’s rescue.
Never mind also that the SFMTA has already identified $21 billion in maintenance and expansion needs that aren’t funded either. Kinda makes that $500 million in borrowed money we approved as voters last year look like peanuts eh?
All of the wonderful ideas and well laid out plans make for fine talking points and glossy mailers. They do not mean anything to you, the owner/rider of Muni, if they don’t have ways to pay for them identified and approved so that they can actually happen.
If fantasies and talking could make Muni run perfectly, we’d have transit the world would envy. Unfortunately, that’s not a reality in Our Universe, and spending millions on a piece of land that won’t advance an unfunded subway that’s not even in any future plans isn’t “getting things done”
PS: Before people start writing in nasty notes about this article’s “bias,” please bear in mind my first job upon returning to San Francisco in November 2000 was to work as a paid advisor to Lawrence Wong. Those of you with memories that predate 2013 will recall he is the guy who made it into the runoff election against none other than Aaron Peskin. (Oh, the mail pieces we did that year….)
As bets go, that one didn’t pay off. Hint: don’t pick the wrong side in a political tsunami.
UPDATE: The news today that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will be the new Speaker of the House, due to the current Speaker’s resignation pretty much cements my point re: “free” federal dollars from Washington. This new Speaker who is openly hostile to rail projects, climate change, et al. To think that suddenly we are going to get billions from the feds anytime in our near lifetimes is a fantasy at this point. Sorta like the Democrats running Congress anytime soon. But keep dreaming, friends.